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 the plan.

While Labor leader Bill Shorten, who favors same-sex marriage, has not ruled out supporting the plebiscite, he has strongly criticized it.

In a 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 Wednesday.

“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.”