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Australians Prepare to Vote on Gay Marriage

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the press at Parliament House in Canberra, Aug. 8, 2017. Turnbull says Parliament could legalize gay marriage this year if the nation’s voters endorse it in a rare but nonbinding poll in November.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the government will hold a vote later this year that could put the country one step closer to legalizing gay marriage.

Turnbull told reporters Tuesday his government will present a bill to the Australian Senate to hold a compulsory plebiscite in November. If the Senate rejects the measure, the government would then hold a voluntary postal vote, with the votes due back by mid-November, at a cost of $97 million. If a majority of voters in either scenario check the “yes” box, parliament would then vote on the measure in December.

Turnbull says he is following through on a campaign pledge to hold the plebiscite. “Strong leaders carry out their promises, weak leaders break them,” he told reporters. Senate lawmakers rejected a bill to hold a plebiscite last November, with opposition lawmakers citing concerns about cost and a run-up campaign filled with bigoted and homophobic rhetoric.

Gay rights campaigners are also opposed to the plebiscite, calling on lawmakers to go on the record with a simple “yes” or “no” vote.