One way or another, the same-sex marriage debate is coming to a head. But how would you like to see the issue decided?
Government MP Warren Entsch recently became the first Coalition MP to introduce a bill to legalise same-sex marriage, but with two-thirds of Government MPs and senators voting to hold the party line against a conscience vote, there is virtually no way the bill can succeed.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised a popular vote on same-sex marriage after the next election, but hasn’t detailed the form this popular vote would take.
“We’re not going to dwell on this and we’re not going to drag out the process,” Mr Abbott told reporters.
“Very shortly we will finalise the precise process for going forward. It will be a people’s decision and it will be in the next term of parliament.”
In a column for Mama Mia yesterday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop addressed the same-sex marriage debate.
“There is a debate within Australia as to how the issue of same-sex marriage should be resolved,” she wrote.
“Recognition of same sex marriage does not require a change to our Constitution. Therefore it is not necessary to hold a Constitutional referendum, which requires a national majority in addition to a majority of voters in a majority of states.
“The Coalition took a commitment to the 2013 election that there would be no change in this term of Government to the Marriage Act – which defines “marriage” as between a man and a woman.
“There have now been calls for the Australian Parliament to decide during this term on changes to the Marriage Act to recognise same sex marriage.
“The process by which an outcome is achieved is unquestionably as important as the issue itself – this is why we held a positive and inclusive debate in the party room last week.
“While there were very strong views held on both sides of the debate, the majority of Coalition Members and Senators were in favour of honouring the election commitment to the Australian people of no change to the Marriage Act in this term of Parliament.
“The Government will respect that view. However we believe that the Australian people should have a direct say on this issue.”
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, on the other hand, has argued that the process should be sped up, and that the Government should take the issue to a plebiscite — an advisory referendum to poll the people on a contentious issue that does not require changes to the Constitution — before the next election.
Australia has previously held two national plebiscites (both during World War I, and both to do with a proposal to introduce conscription), and both failed. Constitutional referendums have been (somewhat) more successful, with eight winning proposals from 44 attempts.
Do you think the Government should act now on same-sex marriage, or wait until after the next election? Vote in our poll and have your say in the comments below!
UPDATE: This poll has closed, and it’s clear that you want action to be taken sooner rather than later. 31.59 per cent of you voted for a public vote before the next election, 28.75 per cent of you voted for a conscience vote before the next election, 12.32 per cent of you voted for a public vote after the next election, and just 0.71 per cent of you want the parliament to wait to hold a conscience vote after the next election. Meanwhile, 26.63 per cent of you are perfectly happy for things to stay the way they are – you don’t want any change in the status quo.
Let’s see what Malcolm Turnbull’s got up his sleeve…