The Australian voting population has voiced its support for changes to the law to allow same sex couples to marry.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the results of its marriage equality postal survey this morning, and unsurprisingly, the figures revealed what popular opinion polls, including a YourLifeChoices survey last month, had always said, that a majority of Australians support the change.
The survey, which cost the Australian public $122 million, revealed that 61.6 per cent of those who voted supported a change to the Marriage Act, with 79.5 per cent of those surveyed choosing to take part.
Victoria was the most progressive state, with 64.9 per cent support, while NSW was the least in favour with 57.8 per cent support.
Females were more likely to participate than males. Nationally, 81.6% (6,644,192) of eligible females and 77.3% (5,980,168) of eligible males participated in the survey.
Those aged 70 to 74 were the most likely to respond to the survey, with 89.6% of eligible Australians in this age group participating.
Now the impetus is on the Government to try to sort things out, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pushing for a vote before Christmas and announcing that Coalition members would have a free vote on marriage equality legislation.
The ABC has polled all MPs on their voting intention now that the public has announced its support for marriage equality. It found that 70 per cent of members in the House of Representatives and 68 per cent of senators would vote for the changing the Marriage Equality act to allow same sex couples to marry.
There is, however, no agreement on the wording of the legislation to be used to introduce marriage equality.
Liberal MP Dean Smith has produced a cross-party marriage equality bill that he has promised to introduce into Parliament on Thursday.
The Coalition, though, appears split. Liberal senator James Paterson is proposing an alternate bill that allows wide-ranging discrimination against same-sex weddings.
Mr Paterson’s proposed bill would override existing state and territory anti-discrimination and freedom-of-speech laws.
Conservatives within the Coalition, including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and senator Eric Abetz, have publicly criticised Mr Smith’s bill and there are thought to be more than a dozen Coalition members who support Mr Paterson’s alternative bill.
The fact that the Government was unable to do its job and instead chose to delay an open vote on marriage equality by creating a costly and hurtful postal survey has always galled me.
It is wrong that Australians who identify as LGBTI have had to justify their relationships and plead for the right to be treated the same as heterosexual couples over the past few months.
But the Australian public has spoken and now is the time to stop with the delaying tactics and get moving to finally delivering marriage equality, so that something positive can come out of the months of negative campaigning.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem likely to happen.
With two rival bills being proposed, the Government has all the reasons it needs to further prolong what should be a very simple change to the Marriage Act.
There is only one person capable of stopping the delaying tactics of conservative MPs determined to ignore the will of the people – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
While he has shown an inability to stand up to the conservative wing of his party ever since being elected leader, now is the time for him to show that he does in fact have a backbone.
The deepening citizenship crisis suggests that the Government may be on its last legs, so if Mr Turnbull wants to leave behind one memorable legacy, this is his chance to do it.
He should immediately back Dean Smith’s version of the marriage equality bill and pull the conservative members of his party back in line, allowing a free vote on the changes.
Any moves to allow private businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation are horrendous and should be opposed. This is not what the people have indicated that they wanted by voting yes in the postal survey.
Australians are a generous bunch and all they want is for people to be treated equally before the law. Let’s make it happen, Malcolm!