By Sarah Carlon
As of November 7, 78 percent of eligible Australian voters have cast their ballot in the $122 million same-sex marriage poll. If the overall vote is yes, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised the issue will be seen in Parliament before Christmas.
“If there is a ‘Yes’ vote, then we will ensure there is a private member’s bill to legalise same-sex marriage and I have no doubt the parliament will deal with that before we all break up in December,” Turnbull stated in a Facebook Live video.
Australia has always had a complicated stance on same-sex couples. Under federal law, same-sex couples are recognized as relationships, but are not entitled to marriage, civil unions, or other federal relationship registration. On a smaller level, states and territories are given the jurisdiction to decide the laws surrounding same-sex marriage, with many offering civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Amendments to the Marriage Act of 1961 prevent same-sex Australian couples from marrying. From 2004-2017, 22 bills legalizing same-sex marriage have been introduced to Parliament, yet none have been passed into law.
When British newspaper “The Guardian” surveyed 1,792 Australians who had already cast their vote in the poll, 64 percent answered “yes” to the question, “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
Ian Thorpe, a retired Australian Olympic swimmer with five gold medals under his belt has, openly offered his support to those campaigning for a “yes” vote.
“The reason why it’s personally important for me is the message it sends to a young me – that the way that I felt is equal to the way anyone else feels,” Thorpe told reporters in Aug. 2017, referencing his own struggle coming to terms with his sexuality before coming out as gay in 2014. “I think it’s when we have this kind of recognition in marriage equality that young people can feel that and we start to get rid of all of those layers of discrimination the LGBTIQ community can face.”
But not everyone in Australia feels the same way as Thorpe. Tony Abbott, the former Prime Minister of Australia and a vocal advocate for the “no” vote, claims he was headbutted by a gay marriage supporter in Tasmania.
“He says, ‘I want to shake your hand.’ I went over to shake his hand. Then, he head-butted me,” Abbott told the New York Times. “Now, he wasn’t good at it, I’ve got to say, but he did make contact.”
Supporters from both sides of the issue condemned the actions of the Tasmanian man. Bill Shorten and Alex Greenwich, Labor Party leader and New South Wales MP, respectively, as well as gay marriage supporters, took to Twitter to denounce the assault of Abbott.
“This is terrible–violence like this is never acceptable. I’m glad Mr Abbott isn’t seriously injured and I’ve rung him to say so,” Shorten tweeted.
As polling comes to a close on Nov. 7, the results of the poll will be announced on Nov. 15 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.