Editorial: Postal vote a chance to show just how far we have come on marriage equality

News that Australians will likely get the chance to have their say on marriage equality via postal vote has, much like the same-sex union debate itself, divided public opinion.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the government would look to hold a plebiscite on same-sex marriage on November 25 but if that legislation is rejected, as appears certain, the government would hold a postal vote ballot over eight weeks from September.

The upshot of that, along with all Australians getting the opportunity to express their views on the matter, is that same-sex marriage could be legislated by Christmas if a “yes” vote is returned.

The downside? 

For starters, there’s the $122 million price tag for something that many believe our elected representatives should be able to decide in parliament at no additional cost to the taxpayer.

Then there’s the not-insignificant problem that some MPs have already said they would ignore the result of a postal ballot when it came to a free vote in parliament.

And that’s not to mention a lot of people will be sceptical about the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ ability to run the ballot given the debacle of last year's census.

Mr Turnbull played down concerns that debate before a postal ballot could be harmful and hoped Australians could have respectful conversations about same-sex marriage.

Member for Indi Cathy McGowan has been a long-time supporter of marriage equality. Last week, Farrer MP Sussan Ley said “in the last 10 years, the community has moved in favour of same-sex marriage” and what this vote will do is prove just how far we have come. 

Unlike a federal election, Australians won’t be forced to vote on the issue, meaning there’s a risk those who don’t feel strongly one way or the other won’t participate in the ballot.

While we could argue until the cows come home about why this matter shouldn’t be going to a postal vote, the facts are that it will and now we need to ensure as many people as possible to take part to ensure we get an accurate reflection of what society wants.

Just 58 per cent of those eligible took part in the most recent election in the US, where voting isn’t compulsory, and we all know how that turned out.

Make sure you vote. You can’t have your wedding cake and eat it, too.

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