The fight over gay marriage in Australia is close to being derailed

There’s something peculiar going on down under in the debate over same-sex marriage. The short version of the story seems to be that it’s not happening… or at least it’s looking increasingly unlikely. The long version gets a bit more interesting because it seems to be a very close parallel to what was happening in the United States six to eight years ago. There’s been a push to have a national vote on the subject take place for a while now, but all indications from their legislative body are that a referendum won’t happen and any legislative vote will be pushed back, perhaps for years. (Reuters)

Same-sex marriage will likely be delayed for at least three years in Australia after the opposition Labor party said on Tuesday it would not support a national vote, dealing another potential blow to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Australia’s center-right coalition government introduced legislation to parliament last month to hold a public vote in February 2017 on whether to legalize same-sex unions.

The bill required the support of some opposition lawmakers because Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal-National coalition has only a one-vote majority in the lower house of parliament and does not have a majority in the upper house.

The Aussies apparently have two paths to legalization, since they also seem to feel that it’s the government’s job to approve who can or can’t get married. One method would be a national referendum or plebiscite among the entire voting population. That’s the approach favored by the Liberal-National coalition which supports Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The more conservative, center right coalition, which has gained the support of the Labor party, wants to see gay marriage legalized only if it’s passed by the Parliament.

Therein lies the problem for the same sex marriage advocates. If they could have gotten the plebiscite passed the vote might have come as soon as February, and polling indicates more than 60% support for gay marriage around the country. But Turnbull is indicating that, failing that effort, there won’t be a vote in Parliament until after the next general elections which may not take place until the end of 2019. As you might imagine, advocates aren’t particularly pleased with that long of a delay.

Turnbull is constantly at odds with Labor and a multitude of critics. When you check in with Australian news there seems to be daily wrangling over everything to do with the man. There have been recent editorials criticizing him for continuing to live in his own mansion rather than the state provided lodgings which the Prime Minister normally inhabits. (Critics say his mansion isn’t set up for normal security details and he’s endangering everyone by staying in a non-secure location.) The Labor party also wants Australia to take a more confrontational stance with China and challenge them over their artificial islands in the South China Sea. Turnbull has rejected that idea also and is in a running battle with them over it.

For those of you here in the United States, is any of this sounding eerily familiar yet? Perhaps we’re not separated by much more than a common language after all.