One year after defeating Tony Abbott, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced legislation to the Parliament to give the Australian people a national vote on the issue of same-sex marriage. “If ever there is an issue to be put to a plebiscite, this is one that can be and should be because it is a very straightforward question,” Mr. Turnbull said. “We put our faith in the Australian people, and we know that their answer, whether it be yes or no, will be the right answer.”
If the Australian Parliament were to pass the legislation, there would a national ballot that would occur next February. According to the New York Times article, there is a strong chance that the ballot go in favor of allowing same-sex marriage in Australia due to the majority of Australians believing in changing marriage laws that currently state that marriage must be between a man and a woman. However, there is a strong push that, if the Parliament were to pass the bill, the “no” campaign would be aggressive in their pursuit to stop change in marriage laws in Australia. As the article states, Bill Shorten, the leader of the opposing Labor Party says, “[the ballot is a platform for prejudice and a megaphone for hate speech.” Shorten fears that those opposing the change towards same-sex marriage legality would turn to pressuring teenagers with uncertainty about their sexuality, to the point of even committing suicide. Neighboring New Zealand legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, which led many Australians to go to New Zealand to become married, despite Australia outlawing same-sex marriage in the meanwhile under the leadership of same-sex marriage opponent, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. When Turnbull defeated Abbott in 2015, much support came out of the same camp supporting same-sex marriage. Now a year almost to the day Turnbull defeated Abbott (on September 15, 2015), the push towards the legalization of same-sex marriage is tribute to one of the keystone issues that brought Malcolm Turnbull to power. In May of 2015, Turnbull stated that Australia was the “odd one out” amongst the Commonwealth nations in not yet allowing same-sex marriage. Influencing nations such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand and more recently, the United States may have played a factor in Turnbull’s decision to introduce legislation to give the Australian people a vote. 22 countries in total have legalized same-sex marriage worldwide, starting with the Netherlands in 2000. According to Galaxy Research polling from 2009-2012, 64% of all Australians support marriage equality, including the majority (53%) of Christians and 81% of young Australians from ages 18-24. With a same-sex supporter in Malcolm Turnbull being Prime Minister, it seems like if the decision were left to the Australian public, there would be legalized same-sex marriage come February 2017. However, some supporters of same-sex marriage, including gay senator
Dean Smith, said that the plebiscite would only give the opportunity for those with bigoted and homophobic views to be legitimized and possibly intimidate those supporting same-sex marriage. The argument Smith makes is that the plebiscite, according to FOX News, has no legal grounds and thus there would be millions of Australian dollars spent for campaigns that only polarize the issue while holding no legal ground, since the Parliament would have to ultimately be involved in the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The voice of the Australian people may be heard in February, but the ultimate policymakers are indeed the Australian Parliament. They are the ones who ultimately decide the fate of legality of same-sex marriage in Australia and the future of numerous couples awaiting that critical piece of news in their lives.