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Government calls emergency meeting to debate marriage equality

The government will hold an emergency party room meeting to debate the issue of marriage equality on Monday afternoon.

Five Liberal backbencher MPs are attending the meeting to push a bill that will allow parliament to have a free vote on the issue.

Dean Smith, Trent Zimmerman, Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson and Warren Entsch want the government to abandon plans for a non-binding plebiscite to decide if same-sex marriage should be made legal.

The bill is a compromise of sorts and includes “protections for religious freedom”. These protections will give religious ministers and civil celebrants the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples without fear of litigation.

Business owners who can prove that they are connected to a religious organisation can refuse to assist in a same-sex wedding.

In other words, a baker who can prove a religious affiliation will be able to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Does that sound like discrimination? The U.S. Supreme Court is currently trying to figure that one out. Can’t see it going down too well in Australia, either.

But it looks like the party room will back a non-binding postal vote to settle the issue, as suggested by conservative Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

If you thought a non-binding plebiscite was bad, then the postal version may even be worse.

The plebiscite is a silly idea because it will cost a fortune and tell us what we already know. Admittedly, a postal plebiscite will probably cost less, but it will take longer, alienate younger voters, and potentially exclude overseas voters or those living in remote areas.

On top of all that, marriage equality advocates told The Sydney Morning Herald that the postal vote would likely be invalid without legislation and challenged by the High Court.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stuck to his guns on demanding a plebiscite to decide the issue. However, if parliament does go with the postal plebiscite, Turnbull will have some opposition from an unlikely foe: himself in 1997.

On Wednesday, Crikey dug up an article that Turnbull wrote for The Australian in 1997.

“The voluntary postal voting method … flies in the face of Australian democratic values,” Turnbull wrote with his trademark forceful rhetoric. “It is likely to ensure that not only will a minority of Australians vote, but also that large sections of the community will be disfranchised.”

Well said, 1997 Turnbull. Could you please remind 2017 Turnbull about this?

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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