Gay marriage advocates have fiercely rejected the idea of a referendum on same-sex marriage at the September 14 election while opponents have welcomed it.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, senior Labor minister Penny Wong and Greens leader Christine Milne have also rejected the idea, although Milne initially supported it.
Christian Democrats leader Fred Nile and Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan, who both oppose same-sex marriage, both support a referendum on the issue as they believe it would be defeated.
Federal Independent MP Tony Windsor (pictured) floated the idea of a plebiscite for marriage equality in Fairfax newspapers today, putting the decision into the people’s hands instead of politicians.
Windsor voted against the most recent gay marriage bill last September but he said his position on the issue had softened since after attending a civil union ceremony.
”Polls on gay marriage say it’s what the population wants. A way to resolve it is through a referendum,” he told Fairfax.
Although it has yet to be announced, it has been reported the referendum on local government would come at a cost of $80 million.
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said the fact that only anti-gay campaigners like Fred Nile now support a referendum was telling.
“Given a majority of Australians support this reform, we believe a referendum would succeed, but we don’t believe Australia should go down that path,” he said.
“We fear cashed-up opponents of marriage equality would exploit a referendum to polarise the electorate and demonise gay and lesbian people in a way that will impact badly, particularly on young gay people.
“Politicians are elected and paid to make laws, not abdicate responsibility by handballing to voters when it gets too hard.”
PFLAG national spokeswoman Shelley Argent said she was appalled so many MPs who believed in equality did not back gay marriage out of fear for their careers.
“Referendums usually fail so why waste the money and as national spokesperson, I am calling on all MP’s from all political parties to do what is right, not easy,” Argent said.
“They know that the majority of Australians believe in equality. We are tired of the continued debate and inaction.”