Australia will become the latest country to legalise same-sex marriage after the country voted overwhelmingly in a non-binding postal vote to back the move. The turnout was a remarkable 79.5% and found that, of these around 12.7 million people, 61.6% backed equal marriage and only 38.4% voting against. Although the plebiscite won’t change the law in and of itself, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that he wants to change the law by Christmas but as others have pointed out Turnbull has previously been less clear on the timeline for legalisation. Although there should be time for celebrating a big step forward, we must not take our eyes off the ball as full equality is still a long way off.
One of the issues currently dominating the political discourse of Australia is whether or not the country should legalise same-sex marriage. The actual substance behind this discussion is not the question in most people’s minds, as poll after poll has shown a healthy majority of Australians in support of marriage equality. Indeed, in recent weeks the case has become even more overwhelming as, although opponents of equality often cite their sincerely held religious beliefs, a poll by Galaxy Research found that a majority of Christians in Australia supported equal marriage. Rather than policy substance, the debate has shifted to how equality is introduced. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that there will be a non-binding postal vote plebiscite on the issue and some have since argued that such a vote should be boycotted. I would strongly recommend not to do that.
Malcolm Turnbull has been dealt a political blow this week after the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) withdrew its support for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage. The NXT join the Greens and Labor, which all support marriage equality but oppose Turnbull’s desire for a plebiscite. Normally I would be criticising these political parties for getting in the way of a democratic vote on this issue but because of the structure of the Australian political system, the opposition parties are right to be unforgiving.
On 15th September former Coalition leader and former Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull was sworn in as the Australian Prime Minister after successfully challenging Tony Abbott for the Coalition’s leadership. For many LGBT activists all over the world the news was welcomed as Australia will have a leader who, despite his own Catholic faith, supports same-sex marriage; although the are right not to mourn the departure of Tony Abbott I would say that there are a few things that should be acknowledged about the new Australian political reality.