Plan for public vote on Australian same-sex marriage blocked

CANBERRA, Australia, Oct. 11 (UPI) — Despite favoring same-sex marriage, Australia’s opposition Labor Party said Tuesday it would not support a public vote on the issue.

The party said it rejects Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull‘s plan to hold a national plebiscite, or non-binding national vote, on whether to permit same-sex marriage, and prefers that parliament prepares and passes legislation. The impasse could delay marriage equality in Australia until at least 2019, the next scheduled date for general elections.

Opinion polls indicate a majority of Australians support legalization of same-sex marriage, as has the Liberal Party’s Turnbull, but a plebiscite, which would cost $120 million to undertake, could unleash a wave of homophobia. Passing legislation in the Senate will require Labor’s support, leaving Australia’s gay community without a viable way forward to same-sex marriage approval.

Andrew Barr of the Labor Party, Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory and among the most prominent gay politicians in the country, supports parliamentary legislation and told CNN, “No other human rights issue is put to a national vote in Australia. In Australia we can declare war, we can send our troops overseas into battle without even consulting our parliament, and yet for something as straightforward as including everyone in marriage, our current government believes there needs to be a vote of every Australian.”

Labor Party leader Bill Shorten added, “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.”

Turnbull, a longtime advocate of same-sex marriage, has said public input is necessary, suggesting the Labor Party is more interested in “wringing every ounce of political gain out of this debate.”

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