Aussie same-sex marriage postal survey to go ahead, says High Court


LGBT groups are disappointed after Australia’s High Court dismissed two legal bids to halt the government’s postal survey on same-sex marriage.

On Thursday, seven high court judges were unanimous in finding that the applications by the plaintiffs, which included individuals and organisations such as PFlag and Australian Marriage Equality, were without merit.

The plaintiffs had asked the court to reject the postal survey on the grounds that the government was wrong in allocating money and resources towards the poll. This was dismissed and the plaintiffs were ordered to pay costs.

“[The postal vote] will ask electors who receive it whether the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry,” solicitor general Stephen Donaghue told the court.

The Bureau of Statistics is now free to start sending out forms on accepting or rejecting marriage equality to 16 million registered Australians from 12 September. The results of the vote are to be announced on 15 November.

Australian Marriage Equality described the ruling as a “disappointment” but now urged Australians to take part in the poll and support its campaign. “This isn’t the result we wanted, but now it’s happening we have to win it,” said the organisation.

The group also immediately released a video prepared in case it lost the legal challenge, calling on supporters to “pledge your YES vote now and ask your friends and family to do the same”.

LGBT organisations believe that human rights should never be put to a vote and that the government must simply support and pass a same-sex marriage bill. The government has instead insisted on canvassing Australians on the issue.

Activists argue that the survey, which is not binding on lawmakers, will lead to hostile and divisive campaign between supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage and will be a waste of taxpayers’ money.

There have already been incidents of deeply homophobic and offensive material opposing marriage equality being distributed ahead of the vote. The government said it would pass legislation to try and curb campaign ads that are misleading, false and intimidatory, but it’s unclear how effective this will be.

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