Turnbull sets December 7 deadline for same-sex marriage verdict

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Gay couples wait in lineto apply for a marriage license in Salt Lake City
Tarah Camarillo (L-R), her partner Nicole Barnes, Leighton Hilburn and his partner Preston Perry wait in line with hundreds of other people to apply for a marriage license at the Salt Lake County Clerks office in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 23, 2013. Reuters/Jim Urquhart

The Turnbull government is set to launch a postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has set the deadline to decide the reform in parliament on December 7.

The Australian is reporting that Turnbull will seek an agreement from the Coalition party room on Tuesday to support the postal vote if the Senate discards the original election commitment of a compulsory plebiscite once again. Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and his party colleagues may accept a postal vote.

On Monday, Turnbull reportedly cautioned cabinet colleagues over the encouragement of some backbenchers to launch a bill that would have pushed for a free vote on gay marriage. A source said the Aussie leader was “robust” during the early morning meeting to talk about the issue before the party room meeting, The Australian states in a report.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned against the postal vote. He argued that its legitimacy could be challenged if the turnout was low.

Abbott believes it would be better to keep trying to get the original plebiscite through the upper house. But MPs supported an approach that promises a decision from the electorate within months and a free vote in parliament by Christmas.

Acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann bears responsibility for a popular vote. He revealed that the original plebiscite would go back to the Senate this week for another vote on a bill, which was originally rejected last year.

“Clearly our preference is to give effect to the commitment we made at the last election to its fullest extent possible, which is why we’ll be asking the Senate to support the compulsory attendance plebiscite,” Cormann said. He explained that a vote in parliament will be the result of a postal vote if Aussies supported same sex marriage.

There will be no free vote in parliament if Australians reject same-sex marriage in the postal vote. Senate crossbenchers have pledged to oppose the plebiscite.

The process to set up and run the postal vote is expected to take many months. It may be concluded late November.

After Monday’s Liberal party room meeting, Cormann said he expects same-sex marriage to be resolved by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, former Queensland Greens senator Larissa Waters has promised to recontest her ex-Senate seat after resigning from parliament due to a dual citizenship mess up. Same-sex marriage and dual citizenship are both on agenda in the parliament house Tuesday.

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