Australia Plans A Postal Vote On Same-Sex Marriage, If Plebiscite Fails : The Two-Way Same-sex marriage will be legal in Australia by Christmas, the country's attorney general says. But the big question is, how will that happen?
NPR logo Australia Plans A Postal Vote On Same-Sex Marriage, If Plebiscite Fails

Australia Plans A Postal Vote On Same-Sex Marriage, If Plebiscite Fails

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (left) says Parliament could legalize same-sex marriage this year if the nation's voters endorse it. He spoke about the issue on Tuesday with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann at Parliament House in Canberra. Rod McGuirk/AP hide caption

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Rod McGuirk/AP

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (left) says Parliament could legalize same-sex marriage this year if the nation's voters endorse it. He spoke about the issue on Tuesday with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann at Parliament House in Canberra.

Rod McGuirk/AP

Same-sex marriage will be legal in Australia by Christmas, the country's attorney general says. But the question is, how will that happen? The push for a plebiscite has stalled in the Senate, forcing the government to plan for a potential postal vote on the issue.

From Australia's ABC:

"It would cost $122 million and instead of being run by the Electoral Commission, it would be conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

"Voters would begin receiving ballots on September 12, ahead of a count on November 7, but voting would not be compulsory."

Attorney-General George Brandis tells the network, "My prediction, and it's only a prediction, is that in the plebiscite, whichever of the two forms it takes, more people will vote yes than no."

The postal vote emerged as a possible solution this week, after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's call for a plebiscite failed to move his political opponents in the Senate.

On Tuesday, Turnbull reiterated his Liberal Party's position that no bill to legalize same-sex marriage would be considered "until the Australian people have had their say."

During last year's election, Turnbull had vowed to let the people decide the issue; his Labor Party opponent had promised to introduce same-sex marriage legislation in Parliament.

In Australia, public opinion polls have shown that a majority of voters approve of legalizing same-sex unions — a move that would put the country on the same path that's already being walked by its neighbor New Zealand. Other prominent members of the Commonwealth, such as the U.K. and Canada, have also embraced same-sex marriage.

A postal vote would see ballots in voters' mailboxes in September, with an official result announced in November.

If either form of the public vote takes place, Australia's Parliament would then decide whether to adopt a law allowing same-sex couples to marry. Lawmakers' votes would not be constrained by the outcome of the public vote.