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Australia Awaits Result as Gay Marriage Survey Ends

  • Phil Mercer

A sample of the postal ballot on legalizing gay marriage is shown in Sydney, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017.

Australia’s same-sex marriage postal survey has closed and the official result is expected next week (Wednesday, November 15). Voters were asked if the Marriage Act should be changed to allow same-sex couples to wed. Polls are suggesting a win for the 'yes' campaign, although the result is not legally binding on parliament.

Sixteen million Australians were eligible to vote in Australia’s same sex marriage postal survey. Officials say almost 80 percent of the potential voters responded and opinion polls are predicting a win for the ‘yes’ campaign.

The debate has, at times, been fractious and divisive. There have been accusations of bullying and bigotry on both sides of the argument. 'Yes' campaigners say they have been called ‘perverts’, while a church backing the 'No' campaign has been sprayed with obscene graffiti.

The government pleaded for the debate to be civil and respectful, and the Senate, the Australian parliament’s upper chamber, went a step further. It passed special legislation that banned intimidation, threats and vilification during the vote.

Magda Szubanski, an Australian actor and marriage equality advocate, says she has been subjected to vile homophobia.”

“I can match you and then some for the abuse that I’ve received, and many people in the 'Yes' campaign, for years," said Szubanski. "I mean, 'Get AIDS and die, pervert.' 'You're a pedophile.' It has been very nasty on the extremes and generally we don’t give air to that, but I do feel I have to correct this lop-sided perception that the 'Yes' are bullies. I really think that’s not fair.”

The ‘yes’ campaign hopes the postal vote will help to make Australia fairer and more inclusive.

The anti-reform Coalition for Marriage says that should same-sex couples be allowed to tie the knot there would be serious consequences for children. It insists that students would be exposed to ‘radical’ views on homosexuality in schools.

The postal survey result will be released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which organized the ballot. The result is not legally binding, but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is a supporter of reform, has promised to introduce same-sex marriage legislation by the end of the year if Australians vote ‘yes.’