The Australian opposition was widely expected to dash government plans Tuesday for a public but non-binding vote on recognizing gay marriage, arguing it would better if the issue was decided in Parliament. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s conservative coalition government needs center-left Labor Party’s support to get enabling legislation through the Senate to hold a national vote on gay marriage on February 11.
While Labor supports gay marriage, it argues the plebiscite would trigger a divisive public debate. Labor argues the Parliament should decide the issue without asking the public.
A meeting of Labor lawmakers will formally announce their decision on the issue on Tuesday.
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“I don’t think you have to be a genius to work out where the majority of feeling is in the Labor caucus on this,” Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The government late Monday released draft amendments to the federal marriage law that would be put to Parliament if a majority of Australians endorse gay marriage in the plebiscite. Opinion polls show most Australians support marriage equality.
But gay rights advocates fear that an aggressive scare campaign could result in the plebiscite failing, putting same-sex marriage off the national agenda for decades. Some conservative lawmakers have said they will vote against gay marriage in Parliament even if a majority of Australians support it.
Religious ministers and officials would be allowed to refuse to officiate at same-sex marriages and churches would be allowed to refuse to provide facilities, goods and services for gay weddings. Some government lawmakers argue the same legal protections should be extended to cake makers and wedding singers who object to same-sex marriage.
Attorney-General George Brandis accused Labor of being more interested in scoring a political win over the prime minister than doing the right thing for gay couples.
“Today is the opportunity for the Labor Party to show that it really does believe in marriage equality or whether it’s just playing a political game here,” Brandis told ABC.