Asia Minute: Australia’s Same Sex Marriage Debate

Sep 13, 2017

Credit Wikimedia Commons

A national vote is getting underway this week in Australia. Ballots have gone out by mail in a campaign that will last nearly two months. The results will not be binding, but might lead to another vote. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Australians who want to can soon begin voting on the issue of same sex marriage.

But they don’t have to.

That’s a contrast to Australia’s national elections—when if you don’t vote, you’re breaking the law.

This postal vote won’t change the law.

Leaders of parliament say they may follow up with a legislative vote that WOULD change the law, and legalize same sex marriage.

National surveys have consistently shown support for that, a poll this week by Fairfax Media shows 70-percent in favor of changing the law.

But it’s been a politically difficult step for Australia’s parliament where some conservative members oppose the move despite clear evidence that the residents they represent support it.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbot is one example.

He’s a critic of same sex marriage even though the Australian Broadcasting Corporation cites a recent survey showing 70 percent of his constituents favor it.

Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull backs the measure, and says if the postal survey shows strong support, the law could be changed later this year.

Critics call the postal exercise a wasteful delaying tactic since national surveys in Australia have shown majority support for same sex marriage for at least ten years.  

Government officials say the mail-in poll will cost about 97 million U.S. dollars.