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Australian Marriage Equality May Now Be Decided by Mail


After another failed attempt at passing a mandatory popular vote, lawmakers have turned to a voluntary mail-in ballot as a last resort.


The marriage debate in Australia has gone postal.

Citizens of the land Down Under will now be asked to vote for or against same-sex marriage through a voluntary mail-in ballot.

Earlier this week, lawmakers in the Liberal Party -- the (actually conservative) ruling party in Australia's Parliament -- had attempted to pass a mandatory plebiscite, which would have required Australians to vote on the issue at the polls this November.

This measure failed Wednesday, after critics assailed the plebiscite's high cost to taxpapers ($160 million in U.S. currency) and its potential to encourage antigay campaigning. The mail-in ballot was the backup plan, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull revealed at a prior press conference, according to United Press International.

"At the last election, we made a very clear promise to the Australian people that we would not facilitate the introduction of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage until the Australian people had had their say," said Turnbull, who is the head of the Liberal Party.

"We will hold a postal vote on this issue asking the same question in which all Australians will have their say -- they will get the opportunity to express their opinion on the issue of whether the law should be changed to enable same-sex couples to marry, fulfilling the commitment we made at the election," he said.

Neither the plebiscite nor the mail-in ballot will legalize same-sex marriage. One way or the other, the issue will be decided by members of Parliament, who may disregard the results if they wish in their own voting. In campaigns, leading members of the Liberal Party had pledged to gauge public opinion before a vote occurred, even though existing polls show a major of Australians are in favor of same-sex marriage.

But some have advocated for action over further delay. On Monday, Sen. Dean Smith, a gay member of the Liberal Party, drafted a bill that would have let lawmakers vote immediately on same-sex marriage. The bill was rejected.

Anna Brown, a representative of the Equality Campaign, vowed to fight a mail-in ballot in court. "The government needs to think very carefully before it expends up to AU$100 million of taxpayer dollars when it could resolve this issue in Parliament as soon as this week," Brown said Monday.

A mail-in ballot would cost taxpayers about $96 million in Australian currency. Ballots are due by November 7, with results posted later that month from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.