Same-sex marriage will likely be delayed for at least three years in Australia after the opposition Labor party said it would not support a controversial national vote, dealing another potential blow to prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The Australian opposition decided yesterday to block government plans for the public but non-binding vote on legalising gay marriage, arguing it would better if the issue was decided in parliament.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull's conservative coalition government needs the centre-left Labor party's support to get enabling legislation through the Senate to hold a national vote on gay marriage on February 11.
But a meeting of Labor lawmakers yesterday unanimously decided against supporting the plebiscite, opposition leader Bill Shorten said.
While Labor supports gay marriage, it argues the plebiscite would trigger a divisive public debate.
Labor argues the parliament should decide the issue without asking the public. The party also claimed that the plebiscite would be a waste of taxpayers' money. "This country does not have the right in a plebiscite to pass judgment on the marriages and relationships of some of our fellow Australians. It is not what Australia is about," Mr Shorten said.
Mr Turnbull, a marriage equality advocate, said despite the Labor comments, the idea of a plebiscite was not dead. "We urge the senators ... to support that bill and give the people their say," Mr Turnbull said.
The Australian Christian Lobby, which opposes marriage equality, said it was disappointed "that ordinary Australians are being shut out from having a say about the biggest social policy change in a generation".
Alex Greenwich, co-chair of the Australian Marriage Equality lobby group, said Labor's rejection of the plebiscite "is a move that indeed reflects the views of the gay and lesbian community who now want the debate about a plebiscite put behind us".