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Australian same-sex marriage stand-off

Reporter: Greg Navarro 丨 CCTV.com

10-23-2016 12:41 BJT

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is hoping to minimise any fallout over his government’s handling of the country’s same-sex marriage debate.

That debate has stalled in parliament - where the country's major parties are locked in a political stalemate over how to handle the issue.

Before Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott lost his party’s leadership last year - he announced the country would hold a plebiscite on whether to legalise same sex marriage.

A plebiscite involves a public vote on an issue which parliament ultimately decides.

But it’s non-binding, meaning members of parliament don’t have to follow the results of the public vote.

Abbott opposed same sex marriage. 

"I just think it was a completely tokenistic and manipulative way to get the issue out of the road and to get it sorted out and to just say, you know what, we are going to appease and appeal to the conservative elements of our party and the electorate and say that’s it - we don’t want to talk about it anymore, we are not having marriage equality in this country," said Bligh Grant, senior lecturer of University of Technology Sydney.

Abbott’s liberal party successor Malcolm Turnbull continued the strategy of holding a plebiscite.

"This is a big issue, a big issue that concerns all Australians and we believe that all Australians should be entitled to have their say," Turnbull said.

Unlike Abbott, Turnbull supports same sex marriage, as does the majority of members of parliament, and the majority of Australian voters.

"The prime minister has to bother with a plebiscite in order to appease the right wing of his party," Grant said.

Earlier this month, opposition leader Bill Shorten - who also supports same sex marriage- announced his party would not support a plebiscite…instead calling for a free vote in parliament, meaning members are free to vote their conscience.

"Why should gay Australians be subjected to a different lawmaking process than any other Australians?" he said.

That has effectively stalled the effort indefinitely, which isn't sitting well with people on both sides of the issue.

"So lesbian and gay people are looking on, feeling pretty powerless at a national discussion that needs to catch up to where the Australian people are," said Tiernan Brady, director of Australians of Equality.

"I think this is a decision in which the political decision hasn’t served us well to this point, enabled us to have a reasoned public debate on this issue," said Bishop Michael Stead of South Sydney Anglican Church.

Analysts say all of this has hurt Turnbull politically.

"The fact that you have this sort of long going train crash over this issue really has demonstrated in a blow by blow way that he doesn’t have a lot of the qualities that the Australian electorate was hoping he would bring to the leadership," Grant said.

Unless either party changes its position - which is unlikely - the question of whether to legalise same sex marriage in Australia won’t be addressed until at least the next federal election.

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