The Australian Parliament has rejected a move to legalize same-sex marriage in the country.
Sen. Dean Smith, a gay member of the Liberal Party (which is actually conservative), drafted a bill that would have let lawmakers vote immediately on the issue.
“It’s time for the party to put the matter to rest once and for all,” Smith declared, according to the Associated Press.
However, the Liberal Party rejected Smith’s bill Monday. The party continued to advocate for its two-year plan of a plebiscite — a nationwide vote on the issue.
The plebiscite has been criticized for being costly — it would likely require an estimated $160 million (in U.S. currency) of taxpayer funds. It also would not have the power to legalized same-sex marriage. Rather, it would be used as guidance for lawmakers in voting and could possibly be ignored.
A previous bill for a mandatory plebiscite was rejected in the Senate. Another bill will be introduced this week. If it fails, the party will turn to the more cost-effective option of a mail-in ballot, which may not require Senate approval.
Polls show the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage. But division over the controversial and costly plebiscite has stalled the issue in Parliament.
Many LGBT activists have been critical about holding a plebiscite. In addition to its cost to taxpayers, the “no” campaign to defeat it would require state-sponsored antigay messaging that may be psychologically harmful to Australia’s LGBT people. And since the vote is nonbinding, Australia’s Parliament is under no obligation to change marriage laws, even if the public supports such a move.
Anna Brown, an LGBT activist and representative of the Equality Campaign, vowed to fight a postal plebiscite in court if Parliament continued to refuse to vote on same-sex marriage.
“The government needs to think very carefully before it expends up to AU$100 million of taxpayer dollars when it could resolve this issue in Parliament as soon as this week,” Brown said.