The High Court of Australia has ruled that the month’s same-sex marriage postal survey is constitutional and will go ahead as planned.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics will begin mailing out survey forms with the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” from September 12, with all 16 million forms set to be delivered by September 25. Forms must be returned by November 7 and the result will be announced at 11:30am on November 15.
If the majority of participants in the survey vote yes, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said a private member’s bill could be debated and voted on by the end of the year. If the result is no, the issue won’t proceed in the parliament.
Marriage equality advocates from The Equality Campaign unveiled a new TV ad featuring Olympian Ian Thorpe and called on as many supporters as possible to get out the vote.
“We are in it to win it. We are committed to doing all in our power to ensure that the long held wish of the Australian people for marriage equality for all Australians is reflected in the results of the survey,” The Equality Campaign’s Tiernan Brady said.
“This must be a campaign of millions of respectful conversations that unites the country. We haven’t a moment to lose and we are hitting the ground running with hundreds of thousands of supporters talking about why marriage equality matters.
“We know that the Australian people support marriage equality but no one can be complacent – it is all about getting as many surveys returned as possible. Together, let’s get this done.”
Veteran campaigner Rodney Croome said many in the LGBTI community “would be feeling anxious” about the prospect of a “deeply personal” campaign, but added: “It’s time to rally and to dedicate all of the resources at our disposal to ensure the majority of Australians vote “yes” for marriage equality.”
This week, two groups brought a legal challenge against the survey in the High Court – the first was led by Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie, PFLAG’s Shelley Argent and Rainbow Families Victoria’s Felicity Marlowe. The second group comprised the Human Rights Law Centre, Australian Marriage Equality campaigners and Greens senator Janet Rice.
They argued in hearings this week that the government couldn’t allocate the $122 million planned for the survey without parliamentary approval because it doesn’t meet the requirement of “urgent and unforeseen” expenditure. They also argued the Australian Bureau of Statistics, who is in charge of the survey, doesn’t have the legal authority to conduct it.
But the High Court ruled that wasn’t the case, ruling in favour of the federal government and giving the green light for the survey to proceed.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the parliament that he and wife Lucy “will be voting yes and I will be encouraging others to vote yes.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten criticised the survey’s $122 million cost but said he would actively campaign for a “yes” vote.
“To people who are feeling disappointed, please turn your disappointment into determination to win. This is a debate where we need to encourage all Australian to participate in this survey. If this survey must be then we must win it,” he said.
Greens Senator Janet Rice said the party would work hard on the “yes” vote to “ensure that LGBTIQ people know that the majority of Australians support them and recognise that love is love and that love will win.”
Liberal Senator Dean Smith, one of a group of Coalition MPs who recently drafted a private member’s bill for same-sex marriage, said there was a “clear pathway” to a parliamentary vote and encouraged everyone to vote “yes”.
“A ‘yes’ vote is a vote for the cherished principle of equality before the law and the dignity of Australians in loving, committed relationships,” he said.
“A successful ‘yes’ vote will strengthen, not diminish, the Australian values of fairness and a fair go.”