Sunday, 6 August 2017

Australia could be moving closer towards a vote on same sex marriage in the coming week

There's been a lot of chatter about same sex marriage in Australia this past week.

It comes as recent polls show the vast majority of the public, are supportive of equal marriage.

Reports indicate the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made it easier for legislation on the issue to be introduced.

It is expected to be raised at party-room meetings when Parliament returns next week.

Turnbull has supported calls for a nationwide vote on the issue, called a plebiscite, before legislation can be introduced, but the latest reports suggest he may be backing away from that being a requirement.

He told reporters: "In our party, backbenchers have always had the right to cross the floor." Signalling his awareness of many backbenchers who have said they would be in favour of same sex marriage.

It also apparently opens the door and gives backbenchers permission to vote against their own party, which is in government.

Marriage equality campaigners have largely opposed the plebiscite, saying such an electoral exercise could have a negative impact on LGBT+ youth.

Furthermore any plebiscite which is held would not be legally binding, so the government could just ignore it if they wished to. Hence why many want legislation to be pushed through parliament so MP's have to vote on it.

Meanwhile a Conservative senator published a draft bill titled Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017, which would provide the legislation for same sex marriage.

Though the bill would allow people of the same gender to marry, it would also allow religious institutions to refuse to carry out the marriages, provided they comply with anti-discrimination laws.

Co-Chair of The Equality Campaign, Anna Brown said: "We've been waiting for marriage equality for a long time and now our politicians have the opportunity to make it a reality, with a Bill that reflects the hard work and extensive consultation undertaken by a Senate committee earlier this year".

"This is about civil marriage. No religious sacrament is impacted in anyway. Religious leaders will still have the right to conduct their marriage ceremonies in line with their doctrines and beliefs", she added.

The draft bill also confirms that businesses and non-religious organisations won't be able to refuse service to same sex couples.

It's felt that if legislation was introduced it would easily pass, with just four Liberal MP's required to join forces with the Labour Party to pass it.

Other MP's have pointed out how ridiculous the governments opposition to equal marriage is considering the majority of the public agree with it.

Many believe Malcolm Turnbull's government could suffer at the next election if no progress is made on the issue.

One Liberal backbencher, Tim Wilson, said: "It's in our best interests to move on from this issue so we can focus on the sorts of things I think people voted for me, and for my party to deal with."

Australia has looked more and more behind the times in recent years.

Neighbouring New Zealand legalised same sex marriage in August 2013, along with the United Kingdom, and just this year the German Parliament voted in favour.

It should be an interesting week ahead, so keep your eyes open for more news from Australia!

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