Australia’s Gay-Marriage Vote Is Divisive, Even for Gay-Marriage Backers

Polls show broad public support for same-sex marriage. Politicians say they’re determined to let the people have their say. So why are so many Australians who want the law changed unhappy with plans for a national vote on it?

The government this week called for an extraordinary mail-in vote on whether gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry, and now Australians will have 14 days to register for ballots. The voluntary postal vote, which is being challenged in the High Court, went forward after the Senate rejected opening the polls for a mandatory, in-person one, as is normally required for Australian elections.

Many supporters of same-sex marriage deride the postal vote as a costly, “irregular and unscientific” gauge of public opinion. It would not itself change the law, and it would not be binding on lawmakers. Parliament would still need to approve legalization, and there is nothing legally preventing lawmakers from doing so whenever they wish. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, under pressure from his Liberals’ right wing, insists that he is only following a pledge not to decide the issue without public comment. “We will not facilitate the introduction of a private members bill on this matter unless the Australian people have given their support through a ‘yes’ vote,” Mr. Turnbull said in Canberra on Thursday, referring to a proposal in Parliament that would legalize same-sex marriage. “We’re committed to every Australian having their say.” Read more via New York Times