Australian LGBT groups challenge marriage vote

family law

LGBT rights groups in Australia have challenged the government’s plan to hold a national vote on gay marriage.

The ruling coalition government, led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of the centre-right Liberal Party, plans to hold a non-binding postal vote in order to gauge support for same sex marriage among the public. However the plan has been criticised by campaigners who object to its cost – an estimated A$122 million (£75 million) – and by some who believe it will lead to hateful campaigning.

This week the vote faces two High Court challenges. The first will take place on Tuesday and the second on Wednesday. The Court is expected to rule on these cases quickly as the government intends to begin sending out the surveys as early as 12 September, the BBC reports.

Both of these challenges are based on the same argument: that the vote is invalid because it was not funded by proper parliamentary means. Funding for the survey was unlocked by the government through a law concerning “urgent and unforeseen” matters.

Those challenging the postal vote claim that an amendment to the Marriage Act is not urgent and, as the idea was first discussed publicly back in March, it is not unforeseen either.

If either of these challenges is successful, the vote will not go ahead, but Prime Minister Turnbull does not appear to be worried. Last week he said he was “confident the challenge to the postal vote on marriage will not be successful” and insisted that the survey will go ahead as planned.

The PM has promised that, if a majority of Australians vote in favour of same sex marriage, Parliament will change the law accordingly. However, as the postal vote is non-binding, MPs will not technically be under any obligation to do so.

Photo of the High Court of Australia in Canberra by Malcolm Tredinnick via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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