The ruling brings a little relief to the conservative government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The decision to conduct the survey has been deeply unpopular on both sides of the issue, birthing a national debate that has been, at times, tumultuous. Advocates of same-sex marriage have pushed for Parliament to vote on the issue directly. The postal vote will cost 122 million Australian dollars, or around $97 million.
The national debate resumed swiftly after the ruling.
“Will the prime minister now accept my invitation to write a joint letter to all Australians recommending voting ‘yes’ to marriage equality?” Bill Shorten, the opposition leader, asked in Parliament.
“Mr. Speaker: I’m interested in the assumption that the leader of the opposition makes that joining his signature to mine will actually increase the ‘yes’ vote,” said Mr. Turnbull, deflecting the question to jeers.
“Much to his disappointment,” said Mr. Turnbull of his counterpart, “now every Australian will have their say.”
Eric Abetz, a senator with Mr. Turnbull’s party, the Liberals, quickly urged his Twitter followers to “help us say NO to political correctness.”
Mr. Abetz linked to a sign-up page for the Coalition for Marriage, a group opposing any changes to the Marriage Act. That group’s spokesman, Lyle Shelton, described the postal ballot as a referendum on freedoms and “radical” sex education.
Australia’s attorney general, George Brandis, dismissed that characterization of the vote, saying, “It is a survey to determine the opinion of the Australian people on the question that is asked, and that question is, ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’ That is the only question to which the Australian people are being asked their advice.”
“The postal survey is going ahead, but whatever the outcome, Parliament should uphold rights and allow same-sex marriage,” Elaine Pearson, the Australia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Fundamental rights should never be put to a popular vote.”
“This postal plebiscite is completely unnecessary,” said Anna Brown, the director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Center, before the hearings began on Tuesday morning….