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Australian Marriage Equality Efforts Stall Once Again

Hopes for achieving marriage equality in Australia this week have again been dashed. ABC News reported that Members of Parliament (MPs) from the governing Liberal Party, which is conservative in its ideology, voted in an internal meeting against allowing a free vote in parliament on the issue.

After several ruling party MP’s indicated they would cross the floor and vote in favor of marriage equality last week, advocates in Australia hoped the country would soon join the rest of the developed English-speaking world in its legalization.

The Liberal Party government, led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, will instead again push for an expensive plebiscite, or nationwide vote, on marriage equality. LGBTQ rights groups and the opposition rejected the first attempt at a plebiscite saying it would be expensive, contentious and non-binding.

The Senate in November 2016 voted down the plebiscite proposal and the new attempt is expected to face the same fate.

The Turnbull government has consistently resisted calls to introduce marriage equality-enabling legislation in parliament despite apparent support from a majority of MPs, as well as openly LGBTQ lawmakers and an overwhelming majority of the public.

A 2004 amendment to the country’s Marriage Act bars marriage between same-sex couples. Efforts to adopt marriage equality in some jurisdictions, such as a 2013 effort in the Australian Capital Territory, have been short-lived and unsuccessful.

Political and advocacy efforts to achieve marriage equality have been ramped up in Australia in recent years. MPs from the opposition Labor Party have found common cause with some pro-marriage equality dissenters from the ruling Liberal Party.

HRC supports the efforts of Australian LGBTQ advocates to achieve marriage equality and has partnered with Australian Marriage Equality (AME), the preeminent national organization working on the issue. HRC Global staff visited Australia in 2015 and 2016 to share strategic advice from the successful campaign for marriage equality here in the U.S.

Learn more about HRC Global’s work around the world here.