How Aussie Gay Marriage Debate Moved to Mailboxes: QuickTake Q&A – Bloomberg

Hold your celebration.

A majority of Australians, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, support changing the law to allow same-sex marriage. Yet while neighboring New Zealand and other English-speaking nations have legalized such unions, it remains a divisive political issue Down Under. With Turnbulls governing coalition at loggerheads and his authority on the line, the government plans to hold a nationwide postal vote to help decide the way ahead. Marriage equality advocates say that could unleash a tide of bigotry, while Turnbulls refusal to campaign on the issue is raising fresh questions about what he stands for.

It is indeed. The largest city, Sydney, hosts one of the worlds biggest Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parades and is known as the San Francisco of the Southern Hemisphere for its large gay community. But while the U.S., the U.K, Canada and New Zealand now allow same-sex unions, Australia remains a laggard.

Far from it — a poll last year showed 64 percent of respondents backed changing the law, with only 26 percent against. Major companies such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Qantas Airways Ltd. have also been vocal in their support. And the number of same-sex couples is rising, about 46,800 in the 2016 census, up 39 percent from 2011

Because the ruling center-right Liberal Party is split between social progressives like Turnbull, and conservatives like his predecessor Tony Abbott. When Turnbull seized the leadership two years ago, he needed to keep conservatives on-side so retained Abbotts policy on same-sex marriage. That was allowing Australian voters to make the final decision through a mandatory public vote, known as a plebiscite. But that path has been blocked in the Senate twice, so he needs to find another way to break the deadlock.

A voluntary postal vote, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, will now be held, with polling closing on Nov. 15. Should opinion polls be replicated and the majority back same-sex unions, Turnbull says he will tell his lawmakers to support a marriage equality bill and the legislation could be approved by the end of the year.

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Not so fast. Some gay-rights lobbyists hate the idea of a public vote, saying it will unleash a tide of bigotry against a vulnerable part of the community; they have vowed to try to stop the process in the courts. Some say the idea of a postal vote, costing taxpayers A$122 million ($97 million) and conducted by a bureau that was criticized for its handling of a problem-plagued national census last year, is outdated in the internet era. They fear older, more conservative Aussies who back the status quo will be more likely to vote than younger generations. And even if a pro-gay marriage result is returned, Turnbull cant compel his lawmakers to respect the result — indeed some are already indicating they wont.

He says no. The prime minister says the issue isnt of major concern to average Australians, who are more focused on economic growth and national security. Meanwhile Abbott, who remains a thorn in Turnbulls side on the backbenches, is urging Australians to vote against same-sex marriage, saying it would undermine religious freedoms.

Since becoming prime minister, Turnbull, 62, has disappointed many Australians by not taking a more progressive approach on issues hed previously championed — such as tough action on climate change and leading Australia to become a republic. His leadership and political judgment have been questioned since he triggered an early election last year, which he subsequently won by a single seat — a margin now in doubt due to eligibility concerns over Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Conflict in the party over marriage equality has the potential to further undermine his authority and some question whether he can survive to lead the government to elections due in 2019. That could see a return to the political chaos that resulted in Australia churning through five prime ministers in the past decade, bringing with it crippling policy inertia. Meanwhile, theres a chance Australias gay and lesbian community will be forced to wait a lot longer for the equality it craves.

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How Aussie Gay Marriage Debate Moved to Mailboxes: QuickTake Q&A – Bloomberg

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Gay Marriage |

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