Australians begin receiving their postal ballots on legalizing gay marriage from Tuesday as a new opinion poll showed that most of those who intend to vote are in favor of marriage equality.
More than 16 million registered voters among Australia’s population of 24 million will receive ballots in the coming days requesting their opinion on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to wed. An Ipsos poll published in Fairfax Media newspapers on Tuesday found 65 percent of respondents said they were certain to take part in the survey. Of those certain to post their ballot papers back, 70 per cent said they would support gay marriage.
If the postal survey finds most Australians want gay marriage, the Parliament will vote by December on legislation to lift the prohibition on gay marriage. But several lawmakers have said they would vote against gay marriage regardless of public opinion. The Ipsos poll was based on a survey of 1,400 voters between Wednesday and Saturday last week. It had a 2.6 percentage point margin of error.
The result was consistent with previous polls in recent years which have shown around two-thirds of Australians support gay marriage. But a similar proportion also want legal protections for churches’ rights to refuse to marry same-sex couples and to teach that marriage should be between a man and woman.
Critics of the government’s approach have argued that the public should see how these rights would be protected in proposed legislation before they decide whether gay marriage should go ahead. But the government refuses to release a draft bill until after the survey decides whether the Parliament will consider any bill.
Conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and center-left Labor Party opposition leader Bill Shorten are both campaigning for law reform. But two past conservative prime ministers, Tony Abbott, who remains a government lawmaker, and John Howard, both oppose the change.