Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stuck to his campaign promise to put same-sex marriage to a vote.
Australians have until November 7 to complete a mail-in survey on whether or not the 1961 Marriage Act should be amended to include same-sex couples.
The ballot has a single question: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” with the options “Yes” or “No”.
As people are getting their ballots in the mail, the Australian public has become divided, and things have started to turn ugly.
Thousands participated in the annual Pride Rally in Brisbane, and were met by a small group of protesters who chanted “repent for your sins.”
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, was head-butted in Tasmania last week by a man who was wearing a “Vote yes” button.
“There’s not much love coming from the ‘yes’ quarters towards people who have the temerity to disagree,” Abbott said after the incident, according to The New York Times.
The man later told The Guardian it had nothing to do with same-sex marriage, just his extreme hatred of Abbott.
Many Australians shared their opinions on social media when a plane wrote “Vote no” across the sky in Sydney Harbor last week:
"Free Speech" in action:
VOTE NO SSM Skywriting –
UPDATE gofundme site has decided to FREEZE OUR FUNDS, until we give ur names + locations. pic.twitter.com/hY3gdmnBMR
— GET FOXED (@OZZIEfox88) September 18, 2017
It is GOOD to VOTE NO! https://t.co/RPU1fCaLvj
A country that can’t protect its kids, has no future !
— Dean Anderson (@germ_nation1) September 22, 2017
Imagine being such a hateful piece of garbage that you pay thousands of dollars for a sky writer to write "Vote No" above Sydney. #VoteYes
— Chris Lowry (@Lowry_16) September 17, 2017
The skywriting was organized through a GoFundMe account that raised more than its $4,000 goal. Like Abbott, the organizer Katrina Bailey said she feels people who support voting “no” are being silenced by Australians who support marriage equality and by the Australian media.
“It’s time for traditional Australians to take a stand!” the introduction of her GoFundMe campaign reads. “We have been bullied into silence, condemned for our views and ignored and vilified by the media. Enough is enough! It’s time we all sent a clear message that we will not put up with our way of life being deconstructed any further!”
Turnbull announced he will be voting ‘yes’ in a speech in Sydney on September 10.
“I will be encouraging other Australians to vote yes, and if they do – if a majority votes yes – then we will ensure a Private Members Bill is presented to the parliament, which will legalize same sex marriage,” he said, “and our expectation is that should be accomplished by the end of the year. It will sail through the parliament.”
- CamerSpencer/Getty Images
Many Australians have posted photos of their completed forms on social media. This has sparked heated debate between friends and family – and there is still a month and a half to go.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics will post the results on its website November 15. If there is a majority who support same-sex marriage, then parliament will vote on it.
A Newspoll released by The Australian newspaper on September 25 found 57% of voters supported voting “yes” in support of changing the law to allow same-sex marriage, 37% supported voting “no”, and 9% were undecided.