Asia Minute: Same Sex Marriage Decision Approaching in Australia

Aug 10, 2017

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More than two dozen countries around the world recognize marriage between members of the same sex. Australia appears to be moving in that direction, but there are some twists and turns along the way. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Poll after poll shows a majority of Australians favor legalizing same sex marriage.

But the politics are a bit more complicated.

Australia’s governing political party is the Liberal Party, which despite its name is to the right of the political center.

Some of its coalition partners and politicians such as former Prime Minister Tony Abbott are opposed to same-sex marriage.

The government of current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wanted to have a mandatory national vote on the issue, but that approach was rejected by the Senate on Wednesday for the second time in less than a year.

The main opposition, the left of center Labor Party, prefers a vote in parliament saying a national vote would be expensive and unnecessary. But that parliamentary vote won’t happen right away either.

Instead, there will first be a voluntary national vote done by way of the postal system.

In Australia, voting in elections is compulsory – staying home is not a legal option.

But because this unofficial ballot is going by way of the postal service, voting on same-sex marriage would not be mandatory, and the results would not be binding on members of parliament.

That has critics of the strategy wondering what the point is.

One part that IS clear: the approximate cost of that voluntary voting.

Prime Minister Turnbull estimates it to be a little more than 96 million dollars U.S.