Australian Prime Minister Malcolm
Turnbull on Wednesday introduced legislation to Parliament that would
allow voters to weigh in on the nation's debate on marriage rights
for gay and lesbian couples.
The controversial bill would set up a
February 11 plebiscite, similar to a referendum. While the result is
non-binding, the government has said it will abide by what the people
say. The legislation sets aside 15 million Australian dollars ($11
million) to be divided up equality between supporters and opponents
of LGBT rights.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, an
opponent of marriage equality, made the plebiscite his
administration's policy. Party conservatives forced Turnbull, a
supporter of LGBT rights, to keep the policy when he became leader.
Marriage equality activists are mostly
opposed to the vote. They say that Parliament should decide the
issue and avoid a divisive public debate.
Without a majority in the Senate, the
government needs the support of the opposition Labor Party to approve
While Labor leader Bill Shorten, who
favors same-sex marriage, has not ruled out supporting the
plebiscite, he has strongly criticized it.
Facebook post, Shorten called the plebiscite a “terrible idea”
and called Turnbull “a fraud on marriage equality” and the “Prime
Minister who broke the nation's heart.”
Turnbull responded to his critics on
“They don't want to run the risk of
the Australian people giving them the wrong answer,” he told
Parliament. “For our part, we put our faith in the Australian
people and we know that their answer, whether it is 'yes' or 'no'
will be the right answer.”