After months of campaigning for what many have criticized to be an unnecessary referendum on legalizing same-sex marriage, voting finally closed today (Nov. 14).
Tomorrow, the Australian statistics bureau will announce the results of the non-binding postal survey—a win for “yes” paves the road for the current Malcolm Turnbull administration to pass a law as soon as Christmas.
Australia has debated for many years whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage, and it stands out as a laggard in terms of LGBT rights in the region—neighboring New Zealand made marriage equality a reality in 2013 and Taiwan is on its way to doing so too. Pro-LGBT campaigners have criticized the government for failing to take leadership on the issue, allowing itself to be held hostage by conservative forces for political gain.
Many also warned that holding a plebiscite on the issue was an unconstructive and potentially damaging way to manage it, citing the experience of Ireland when it held a same-sex marriage referendum in 2015 (and ended up legalizing it). In recent months, for example, the “no” camp have run ad campaigns suggesting that schools could end up telling male students that they could wear dresses.
Despite the unpopularity of the referendum, turnout was high—the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that 78.5% of people voted in it, as of last Friday (Nov. 10), compared to 60.5% in Ireland’s referendum. Most polls have shown the “yes” camp winning by a comfortable margin.