Top lawyers warn Australian marriage referendum could weaken federal powers
If Australia were to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage, it could weaken federal power to legislate on marriage, top legal experts have warned.
In addition, a plebiscite, despite being a simpler option, would hold no legal force, and MPs would have no obligation to vote with the public majority.
The latter has been suggested by those opposed to same-sex marriage such as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Last month the Prime Minister banned coalition MPs from a free vote on the issue of marriage equality.
Abbott’s cabinet will next week discuss its approach on the matter, possibly as early as the coming week.
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Attorney General George Brandis has advised that a referendum is unnecessary, and it is likely that a plebiscite would be the most likely option.
Brandis said a referendum is an expensive and unnecessary measure, when Parliament is already qualified to pass laws on marriage.
Pro-equal marriage group Australian Marriage Equality has also sought legal advice on the issue from High Court barristers Bret Walker and Perry Herzfeld.
The barristers suggested that a referendum could introduce legal ambiguity.
Despite all polls finding that an overwhelming majority of the public are in favour of equality – making a plebiscite effectively redundant – Mr Abbott wants to lock in a vote after the next federal election in 2017.
The PM has threatened to sack any of his ministers who rebelled and voted in favour of equality without a public vote – but a senior backbencher has fired a warning shot over the timing of the planned plebiscite.
Under Abbott’s current plan, it is highly unlikely same-sex couples will be able to tie the knot until 2018.
Yesterday, one of Tony Abbott’s backbench MPs has fired warning shots – over stalling on a planned public vote on same-sex marriage.
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