Australia unlikely to see same-sex marriage legislation soon

Opposition Labor Party refuses to support a public vote on gay marriage which it argues should be passed by the parliament without further delay. However, the government has no plans to legislate on the issue without a referendum.

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull has made it clear that without a public vote on same-sex unions, the issue will not be taken up by the parliament until after the next general elections in 2019.

Legislation allowing same-sex marriage is likely to suffer a delay of at least three years in Australia after the opposition party said on Tuesday it would not back the government’s plan to hold a national vote on the issue. The public poll was slated for February 2017 and a bill on the referendum was presented to the parliament last month.

The centre-left  Australian Labor Party and other opposition parties support gay marriage but think the public vote is unnecessary when it could just be passed by parliament like any other law. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier said that should the legislation proposing a national vote be rejected, the issue of same-sex marriage would not be reintroduced into parliament until after the next elections in 2019.

Why should gay Australians be subjected to a different law-making process than any other Australians?" said Labor leader Bill Shorten.

Why should a couple in a committed relationship have to knock on the doors of 15 million of their fellow Australians and see if they agree with it? The easiest way is the way which this parliament has done for a hundred years - legislate.

Australia Labor Party leader Bill Shorten

The public vote bill required the support of some opposition lawmakers because Turnbull's Liberal-National coalition has only a one-vote majority in the lower house of parliament. It does not have a majority in the upper house.

Several independent MPs had already ruled out supporting a national plebiscite on same-sex marriage.​

The rejection by the Labor Party ended any hope the plebiscite bill could pass.

According to CNN, the Labor Party says the vote would be too costly and could result in a public narrative that could harm the LGBTQ community in Australia. Advocates of same-sex marriage hold similar concerns, that a public debate on the vote would prove harmful, sparking homophobic rhetoric against same-sex unions. Turnbull's party is of the belief the public should have a say on what they consider a pivotal social issue.

Same-sex marriage enjoys the support of 61 percent Australians, a Gallop poll showed in August. 

Waning political support threatens Turnbull's position, analysts have said, in a country that has seen five prime ministers in nine years. His popularity is expected to take a hit if he fails to deliver same-sex marriage in his tenure.

TRTWorld, Reuters