What the hell is going on with same-sex marriage in Australia?

Supporters of same sex marriage carry banners and shout slogans as they gather on a street in Sydney on August 6, 2017. Australia's Liberal Party, the senior partner in the ruling coalition, is set to debate its same-sex marriage policy on August 7 amid tensions between conservative and moderate elements over whether to dump a policy of holding a plebiscite on the issue in favour of other options, despite strong popular support for marriage equality. / AFP PHOTO / PETER PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia is facing a tidal wave of homophobic hate speech ahead of an unauthorised vote on equal marriage that pretty much no one actually wants. What the hell is going on?

More than four years after neighbouring New Zealand’s Parliament passed an equal marriage law without incident, Australia’s Prime Minister is instead putting the issue to the people – and has unleashed a Pandora’s Box of anti-LGBT hate speech as the ‘No’ campaign kicks into gear.

What the hell is going on?

The answer involves a coup, more than one shadowy deal, and a lot of shameless political manoeuvring.

So what is happening?

The country’s current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has refused to put equal marriage to a vote of MPs in Parliament.

Malcolm Turnbull
Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull

Instead he planning to hold a ‘postal vote’ on the issue, which is set to go forward at the end of September.

That’s like a referendum, right?


Mr Turnbull is not seeking permission from Parliament to hold the postal vote, which means it’s likely going ahead without any legislation behind it.

The vote will not be subject to usual rules governing elections, and will be held by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a little-known government department which usually runs the Census and does data analysis.

There will be no polling stations, Australia’s compulsory voting laws will not apply, and voting will be carried out entirely by post.

It is entirely non-binding and ‘advisory’ in nature, which means that MPs will not be bound by its result.

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