Since the day I entered Sydney, I heard talk on the news, radio, in restaurants, anywhere and everywhere about Australia’s Marriage Equality Postal Survey. At the moment, same-sex marriage is still illegal in Australia. This definitely surprises me, considering that the areas of Australia that I have seen or heard of are relatively laid back and socially progressive. Also, there is little presence of religion in every day life, unless you want to emphasize it in your own. Religion is especially not present in politics, in comparison to America at least. However, I have been informed of the some what of a fiasco that has gone on in Australian government over the past decade. This can give some explanation why little progression in certain areas has happened. (Sound familiar?) A national vote over same-sex marriage was originally planned for 2015, when the controversial Tony Abbott was Prime Minister. However, the funding was inadequate. Now in 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has initiated a postal vote funded under the Appropriations Act.
Starting in the beginning of September, Australian voters began to receive a ballot in the mail that states, “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”. Below the question are two small boxes to check, either yes or no. There are two important aspects of this survey. The first being that it is in fact a survey, meaning that regardless of the results of the vote, the government still doesn’t have to make any changes to the law. This law could have been past on the floor by Parliament without involving a vote, similar to how the law changed in the US. However, this didn’t happen because of all the conflicting views in the government at the moment, so a vote was put in place to see what the citizens thought. The second aspect is that in Australia, people over 18 are obliged to vote. This is important to consider because the truth of the matter is that a lot of people don’t really care about marriage equality. There are large groups of passionate advocates for marriage equality as well as for keeping the law in place. There is also, however, a huge chunk of the population that aren’t affected by the law and don’t really care. With voting being mandatory, these people will have to make a decision. I am particularly excited to see how these people vote.
There are a few things I have found quite surprising about this whole process. The first was that same-sex marriage advocates did not want this vote to occur. They even challenged it for being an illegal use of funding. The High Court ruled against them, giving the survey the go ahead. This seemed really strange to me. Why wouldn’t people supporting same-sex marriage want this vote to happen? Wouldn’t it open up such an important topic and allow for changes to be made? The advocates disagree with the vote because of the fact that human rights issues are typically dealt with on the floor of Parliament, not needing to be debated over by the population. This is definitely a valid point that I had not considered myself. Regardless, the vote is happening so advocates are campaigning, encouraging everyone to vote yes. Everywhere in Sydney’s CBD are posters and artworks, pride flags flying, and advocates spreading wisdom in support of marriage equality. Even Town Hall has a large flag hanging on top. Not everyone is in support of it, however. I have seen commercials on mainstream channels of mothers advising people to vote no so their children’s schools won’t start allowing boys to where dresses. Although the city of Sydney seems to be on the same page of voting yes, there are still huge areas of Australia that don’t necessarily feel the same. I am anxiously anticipating the results of the vote, due November 15th, and how government will act on it.