In a move that will infuriate LGBT Australians, the country’s ruling party has again chosen to not allow its MPs to vote for same-sex marriage.
On Monday, a crisis meeting was called by the leaders of the Liberal Party-led coalition in response to the release of a bill to legalise same-sex civil marriage.
Despite polls showing that a majority of Australians support marriage equality, the government stubbornly decided to stick to the already discredited idea of holding a plebiscite, probably via post, on the issue rather than allowing it to be decided on in parliament.
The plebiscite plan has been criticised by LGBT groups as an expensive waste of taxpayers’ money that may spark heightened homophobia and deepen harmful divisions in Australian society. The plebiscite would also be non-binding and would anyway require MPs to ultimately vote on the matter.
The party’s decision was slammed on social media, with many expressing their shock, disappointment and disbelief at the news.
“It’s only gay people being asked to have their rights and interests put to a public vote,” Anna Brown from the Human Rights Law Centre told Sky News in response to the party’s decision.
“There’s no reason why the rights of our community and the love and commitment and happiness of LGBT people should be singled out for this extra step,” she added.
The Australian Marriage Equality campaign said the federal government had failed to show leadership and stated that it will “fight the plebiscite in any form”.
“Telling one group of people that their rights cannot be decided by parliament but instead have to be decided by a separate process sends a clear and terrible message to Australians that LGBTI people have to reach a higher bar for their dignity,” commented Tiernan Brady, Executive Director of The Equality Campaign.
A previous attempt to pass legislation to allow a plebiscite on marriage equality was rejected last year by the Senate, but the government will now reintroduce it. The new plebiscite legislation has already been described as “doomed” and is not expected to pass.
It’s widely believed that should MPs be allowed a free vote on the issue they would immediately pass the required legislation to legalise same-sex marriage.