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Will Same-Sex Marriage Finally Be Legalised In Australia?

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Photo: TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images.
Same-sex marriage has come under the spotlight in Australia this year. It was a key talking point during the country's federal election in June, and high-profile celebrities, from Margot Robbie to Kylie Minogue, are publicly backing it.

So, why is it in the headlines?

Same-sex marriages are not currently recognised by the Australian government because the country's Marriage Act defines marriage as between "a man and a woman", rather than "two people".

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised to hold a non-binding plebiscite, i.e. a direct vote of the Australian electorate, on the issue.

However, on Tuesday the country's Labor opposition MPs voted against holding a national vote. Critics of the plan, including many campaigners backing marriage equality, believe a plebiscite risks unleashing a torrent of homophobia and would be expensive.

Instead, gay rights campaigners want parliament itself to vote on legalising gay marriage. Of 5,500 LGBTI Australians surveyed by Just Equal in July, 85% opposed a plebiscite and 62% would rather wait for a parliamentary vote.

One woman, Georgina Hibberd, an Australian who married a woman in Hawaii several years ago, said she wouldn't want their 13-year-old son to be exposed to any homophobic rhetoric. "I can handle it, I've done it all my life but my son - that's another matter," she told the BBC.

The Australian Senate will still vote on whether a plebiscite should be held, but it is unlikely to pass after opposition MPs' announcement yesterday and the situation probably won't be resolved before this parliament ends, the BBC reported.

Numerous celebrities have come out in support of marriage equality in Australia in recent weeks. Margot Robbie showed her support for the cause while hosting Saturday Night Live a couple of weeks back.

She wore a t-shirt in support of Australians 4 Equality, a group campaigning for marriage equality to be reached through a free parliamentary vote rather than a plebiscite.

Kylie Minogue and her British fiance British actor Joshua Sasse, who is behind the #sayidodownunder campaign, have also been vocal in their support, saying they won't get married until same-sex marriage is legal in Australia.
“He’s so adamant to fight for gay rights in Australia and it’s coming from the most genuine place," Minogue told News Corp Australia of her fiance. "He just can’t fathom that same-sex marriage hasn’t been legalised and of course I back him up on that, we are waiting for it to happen.”

Sasse told Australia's Seven Network: "When I found out that gay marriage was illegal in Australia, I was astounded," the BBC reported.

"I simply can't fathom on any level, whether it's moral or religious or anything, that I have the right to get married and to marry the person that I love and that somebody else doesn't because of their sexual orientation."

Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters and the U.S. actor and talk show host Kelly Ripa have also worn the Australians 4 Equality t-shirts.
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