Another delay for Australian marriage vote as government Senator opposes plans to ‘rush’ it this year

A government Senator in Australia has said that a public vote on equal marriage needs to be delayed again.

The country’s right-wing PM Malcolm Turnbull has repeatedly stalled Parliamentary votes on equal marriage, instead making plans to take the issue to the general public in a plebiscite (public vote) to avoid a rift with his own conservative anti-LGBT MPs.

Having already agreed to stall the issue until after this month’s federal election, Turnbull – who pulled off a narrow victory in the polls but holds a wafer-thin majority- promised this week to bring forward the plebiscite plan as soon as possible, to be held either this year or early next year.

But having successfully stalled the issue for several years already through political manoeuvring, the anti-LGBT elements within Turnbull’s Coalition appear to be stringing out the issue for as long as possible.

Warning against a quick vote, Senator Eric Abetz – the former Leader of the Government in the Senate – told Sky News Australia: “My view is that the plebiscite needs to occur in an orderly fashion that allows the Electoral Commission to undertake all the necessary planning that allows those in favour of changing the traditional definition of marriage, those that want to maintain the future of marriage to secure the future of the next generation… both sides should be allowed to have a proper campaign, ventilate the issues, and ensure it’s a well and properly conducted campaign and plebiscite.

“When and where it’s held – ‘The chances are logistically it will need to sneak out to 2017. But at the end of the day the important thing is that people can say it wasn’t rushed, we didn’t do it in a ham-fisted manner, everybody had the opportunity to ventilate their views.

“I welcome the prime minister’s flexibilty as to the timetable, because I believe it’s vitally important the people feel they have proper ownership of it, as opposed to it being rigged and rushed.”

If the plebiscite is stalled until 2017, it is unlikely weddings could begin before 2018 at the earliest – even though every major poll conducted on the issue in the past year has shown a large majority are in favour of equal marriage now.

Though a firm majority of MPs and Senators now support equal marriage itself due to the opposition Labor Party’s election gains, it may be difficult to green-light the plebiscite plans if conservatives like Abetz take issue with a short timetable.

It is already unclear if the opposition party would agree to vote for a plebiscite, having consistently called for a simple vote in Parliament to pass equal marriage – and a combination of Labor opposition and conservative rebellion could see a defeat for the government.

Abetz has already said he would ignore the result of the public plebiscite and vote against marriage legislation based on his own beliefs.