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Yes-No Referendum About Same-sex Marriage in Australia
(Blogmensgo, gay blog of September 11, 2017) On September 11, 2017 the Australian government launched a referendum by mail with an exclusively advisory character asking the citizens whether they agree to allow same-sex couples in Australia to marry in the future. The result, which is quite unclear at the moment, will be published on November 15, 2017.
Update of October 20, 2017. The supporters of gay marriage clearly lead the polls (details at the end of the article).
Liberal Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull is in favor of same-sex marriage, just like the opposition although the latter would have preferred a vote in parliament.
After months of tactical maneuvering, Turnbull initiated this pseudo-referendum.
Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?
Participation in this referendum is voluntary and has an exclusively advisory character. Normally however, participation in a referendum in Australia mandatory and the results are legally binding, and so it is unclear whether the results would actually have any political effect in the end.
According to the surveys of the recent years, about 60 to 70 percent of Australians are in favor of same-sex marriage. The participation by mail is likely to have a considerable effect on the participation quota because younger voters who are mostly in favor of same-sex marriage would much rather participate in an electronic vote than in a vote by mail.
The biggest challenge for the LGBT interest groups consists in convincing the younger voters representing the “digital natives” to cast their vote by mail and make them realize what a NO decision might mean in the end.
Another campaign asks the young voters to arrange their chains of lights (or fairy lights) in the shape of the letter YES. (#putoutyourfairylights).
People in Australia frequently use the hashtag #RingYourRellos, taken over from #RingYourGranny, a hashtag that started to appear before the referendum on gay marriage in Ireland. These initiatives have led to such nice minimalistic videos like the one made by Lisa, which gives this article a very moving happy ending.
Update of September 26, 2017. As of yesterday evening (September 25, 2017), the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) had mailed all of the 16 million ballot papers for the referendum. Any voters who have not received their ballot within the next days, may ask for a replacement ballot until October 20. Voting twice is excluded however because each ballot is unique and any replacement ballot invalidates the initial ballot.
Voters may cast their vote until October 27 in most cases or until November 7 the latest. ABS will then publish the official results of the referendum on November 15 on its website.
If a majority of votes is for gay marriage, the deputies intend to introduce a bill within two weeks. Some deputies who are actually against same-sex marriage have expressed their intention to vote for the bill in case the referendum shows a majority of voters are in favor of it.
Within this context, more than 10,000 people participated in Brisbane Pride 2017 on September 23. Many more people watched the parade from their homes and had put rainbow flags in their windows or on their balconies. Here is a brief impression on video:
Over 100 authors, artists and other Australian celebrities, including literature Nobel prize laureate J. M. Coetzee wrote an open letter to their fellow citizens asking them to cast their votes.
In the interest of fairness, equality and social reform, we encourage Australians to vote Yes in the same-sex marriage postal survey.
Here is the update of october 20, 2017.
Clear victory for supporters of gay marriage expected
On October 15 (i.e. about two weeks before the end date of the referendum), about 59% of the voters voted Yes, 38% No and 38% were undecided.
An extrapolation of this tendency yields a total of about 56% for gay marriage vs. 37% against it, which means the undecided voters can hardly turn around the this tendency.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics had already received 67.5% of the ballot papers. The lead of gay marriage supporters could only be turned around if at least three quarters of the voters not having voted yet were to vote against gay marriage, which is very unlikely.
Even before all voters have cast their votes, a voter turnout of at least 84% (if not up to 90%) is expected, which is very high for a referendum.
Participation in the public voting seems to strongly depend on the age group:
In the age group of 18 to 64 years, about 57% have already cast their votes, in the group of 35 to 49 even 63%, of whom 66% and 66% respectively, voted Yes.
In the age group of 50 to 64, about 52% voted Yes but in the age group over 65, only 44%.
Methodology: The poll was carried out between October 12 and 15, 2017 by Newspoll among 1,583 voters all over Australia. The error margin is around ±2.5 percentage points.
Frank-S / MensGo
Initial source: Lemonde.fr, September 11, 2017.
Source of the update: sbs.com.au (ballot paper) and theguardian.com (open letter), September 26, 2017.