Turnbull government could face legal challenge over same-sex marriage

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's administration could face a High Court challenge from gay rights activists if it holds a postal vote on same-sex marriage.

(REUTERS / David Gray)Gay rights activists stand next to a banner as they listen to speeches during a rally supporting same-sex marriage in Sydney, Australia May 31, 2015.

Coalition MPs have scheduled a postal vote on same-sex marriage before November. Under the plan, ballot papers will be delivered to all registered Australian voters starting Sept. 12 where they will be asked if they believe the Marriage Act should be changed to legalize same-sex marriage, News.com.au detailed.

The postal plebiscite will be totally voluntary, and the final result of the polls is expected to come out by Nov. 15. Should the majority of Australians vote "Yes," MPs will hold a free vote in Parliament. However, the government will not hold a free vote if the citizens vote "No."

"The important thing is that every Australian gets their say," said Turnbull, who earlier revealed that he is in favor of the change.

"I believe that relationships, marriages, should be available to people like Lucy and me, people of different sex ... and also to people of the same sex," he added. "Other people have different views on that fundamental issue and I respect their views and they're entitled to them."

On Aug. 9, the Senate rejected the compulsory-attendance plebiscite bill for the second time, paving the way for the planned postal vote. Labor senate leader Penny Wong delivered a speech pleading for the Senate to block plebiscite campaign as it would only open the gay community to a spate of hurtful comments, The Australian reported.

Sen. Wong cited the Australian Christian Lobby as an example and said the group describes children of same-sex parents as a "stolen generation." For her, the same-sex marriage debate is no longer respectful and having that campaign would only expose children to hate speech.

Sen. Mathias Cormann, on the other hand, moved to allow a compulsory-attendance plebiscite on same-sex marriage He said the government would stick with its commitment to hold a postal vote if the plebiscite is blocked.