Australia: MP calls for election day referendum on equal marriage
An independent Australian MP has proposed that the issue of equal marriage be put to voters in a referendum, as soon as this September, in a move supported by the Green Party.
Tony Windsor is set to call on Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, to take the issue of marriage equality “out of the hands of politicians”, and to let the public decide on election day on 14 September.
Reports by Fairfax Media revealed that the government is set to announce that a referendum on recognising local government in the country’s constitution will take place on election day, at a cost of AUD$80 million (£53 million).
Windsor, whose deal to support the minority Labor government included the local government referendum, will also call for the question of equal marriage to be added to the ballot.
He said that the message had got from Australians was to “let us have our say and get it away from you idiots [politicians]”.
“Polls on gay marriage say it’s what the population wants. A way to resolve it is through a referendum,” he said. “It’s a bit like the gun debate in America – the politicians appear to be out of step with the people.”
He went on to say that the public could force the government to pay attention. “You get a million people on Facebook and Twitter saying they want a referendum and it will catch fire. The politicians would have to listen,” he continued.
Windsor, who voted against the most recent equal marriage bill, said he had softened his views on the issue after attending a civil union ceremony. He said it had been “possibly the most sincere and meaningful occasion” he had witnessed.
“If it came down to my vote [in Parliament] I’d have to have a really hard think about it. But that ceremony had an impact on me. I’d probably vote for it,”he said.
Christine Milne, leader of the Green Party said she was “clearly in favour” of a referendum. “I’ve been saying for some time that both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott are on the wrong side of history with this,” she said.
The referendum would require a majority of people in a majority of states to allow the measure, could be inserted into the constitution, noting that same-sex marriage is recognised.
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