Public should vote on same-sex marriage, says Australian PM

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Tony Abbott has declared it is his “strong disposition” to allow a popular vote on same-sex marriage after the next election.

Mr Abbott called a five hour-long meeting yesterday (August 11), which resulted in two-thirds of the coalition party room voting against a free vote on same-sex marriage.

During Prime Minister’s Question Time, he reaffirmed that this meant government ministers must vote against marriage equality, reports ABC.

“Members of the executive as usual – as always – are bound by the policies of the Government,” he said.

However, he also reiterated his belief that the issue should be put to a popular vote – similar to the one that took place in Ireland earlier this year – suggesting a plebiscite or referendum could be held after the next election to allow voters to have a say.

Whereas the referendum in Ireland was legally required – like all proposed changes to the Irish constitution – a similar vote in Australia is not.

The Australian government do have a choice and could extend marriage to same sex couples without any public vote.

“Our strong disposition, Mr Speaker, is to go into the next election with a commitment to put this to the people,” Mr Abbott said.

“Going in to the next election there will be two parties with very different positions.

“Members opposite will want the politicians to decide, this Government wants the people to decide.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also supported including voters in the process.

She tweeted: “It’s my view the Australian people should have a direct say on this issue.”

For same-sex marriage to be legalised by a referendum a double majority would be required — the majority of Australian states and an overall national majority in order to change the constitution.

A plebiscite would only need a national majority – however, the government would not be compelled to act on the result.

Marriage equality has proven a difficult subject in Australia, with Abbott seen as a staunch opponent.

Thousands took to the streets of Australia to push for same-sex marriage, across various cities last weekend.

Rallies have already taken place this year, to push for MPs to be given a free vote on the issue.