Australian opposition MPs have said they will block the prime minister’s plan to hold a national vote on legalising same-sex marriage.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s conservative coalition government needs the support of the Labour Party to get legislation through the senate to hold a national vote on same-sex marriage on February 11.
But a meeting of Labour lawmakers today unanimously decided against supporting the plebiscite, opposition leader Bill Shorten said.
While Labour supports gay marriage, it argues the plebiscite would trigger a divisive public debate. Labour says parliament should decide the issue without asking the public.
“The experts have unequivocally explained to Labour that the plebiscite would cause harm to gay and lesbian people particularly but not exclusively young people,” Mr Shorten told reporters.
“Marriage equality, let’s make it a reality, let’s just get on with it,” he said.
Mr Turnbull, a marriage equality advocate, said despite the Labour comments, the idea of a plebiscite was not yet dead.
Gay rights activists fear that an aggressive scare campaign could result in the plebiscite failing, putting same-sex marriage off the national agenda for decades and some marriage equality advocates fear that Labour’s decision has ended any chance of same-sex marriage law reform during parliament’s current three-year term.
Opinion polls show most Australians support marriage equality.
Turnbull has said that, should the legislation proposing a national vote be rejected, the issue of same-sex marriage would not be reintroduced into parliament until after the next election, which is due in or before November 2019.