Australia’s High Court Hears Petition To Stop Marriage Equality Survey

"Such decisions should not be in the hands of an anonymous majority."

Australia’s High Court heard arguments from same-sex marriage advocates on Tuesday who want to put an end to the postal survey that will ask citizens “whether or not the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry.”

The survey has been met with criticism from the start, partly due to the fact that it will cost 122 million Australian dollars ($97 million), and advocates want Parliament to decide on the issue without polling the public.

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While most Australians have indicated in opinion polls that they are in favor of marriage equality, many activists are concerned that the survey will not be an accurate representation of Australia’s views on the issue.

“Such decisions should not be in the hands of an anonymous majority,” Australian journalist Merryn Johns wrote for NewNowNext about why marriage equality should not be put to a public vote. “As we saw with Brexit, what people vote for in private, fueled by their own fears and anxieties, doesn’t always reflect the greater good. And the results of a postal survey are non-binding.”

Advocates are pointing out that Australians elect politicians to make laws for everyone, so it is unfair to not include LGBT citizens, and instead turn their fate over to the public.

The groups are arguing over the next two days that the government does not have the constitutional power to bypass Parliament and conduct the survey next week, and the government will present its case on Wednesday.

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If the survey found that a majority are in favor of same-sex marriage then Parliament would have until December to decide on the issue. However, some Parliament lawmakers said the public’s opinion would not sway their vote, causing people to question the purpose of the expensive survey.

Lawyers reminded the court on Tuesday that the government can only fund a vote without approval from the Senate in “unforeseen emergencies,” arguing that the postal survey does not fall under the category of urgent.

The judges can take as long as they want to hand down a decision, but could make their ruling as early as Wednesday in order to prevent ballots from being sent to voters on September 12.

If equality advocates are successful in stopping the survey, lawmakers have hinted that they’ll introduce a bill to Senate to legalize gay marriage as early as next week.

Adam Salandra is a writer, performer and host in Los Angeles. When he's not covering the latest in pop culture, you can find him playing with his French Bulldog puppy or hovering over the table of food at any social gathering.
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