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Australian same-sex marriage vote nears an end



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ADELAIDE, Australia — The end of Australia’s postal survey on whether or not the government should legalize same-sex marriage is in sight. 

It’s been a bumpy road filled with ugly incidents. The Australia Broadcasting Company has reported incidents of vandalism, graffiti, violence and bullying for both sides of the issue. In one such incident, a priest was spit on while walking down the street. At other times, "Yes" voters were harassed with reported homophobic slurs.

The nonbinding postal vote will end with Australians returning their ballots by Nov. 7.

But as the survey finishes, supporters are hopeful of the outcome.

Hamish Probert, 19, is a supporter of same-sex marriage himself, and while he described the postal vote as the “worst possible way to make a piece of legislation go through parliament,” he is hopeful for a "yes" vote.

He has seen both sides take dark turns with harassment and violence.

“Both sides, the yes and the no campaign, have at times overstretched themselves,” Probert said. “There has been a lot of hate from both groups and no real dialogue.”

Terms like “bigot” and “sinful” have been tossed across to supporters of either side, but it’s not just about two sides.

Not everyone is happy there is a nonbinding vote at all.

The postal vote is a $122 million AUD or $95.7 million venture by the Australian government to gauge public opinion on the legalization of same-sex marriage. It’s not legally binding. Only the Australian government can change the law, and they are not required to even if a "yes" vote comes in after Nov. 7.

If the postal survey comes back in support of same-sex marriage, the government may allow a proposed amendment to the marriage law to be introduced, but even that is not guaranteed. 

Probert said he wished Parliament would simply pass a bill into law without the need for this huge, nonbinding vote.

According to polls and early results, "Yes" supporters are optimistic. The Australian media outlet, news.com.au, recently surveyed 5,000 people; 61.5 percent of people favor voting "yes." Just in my classes at the University of Adelaide, I’ve heard the comments at the beginning of presentations and written on whiteboards. 

“Vote yes.”

However, there have been vocal protests against support for same-sex marriage. Critics include the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, who delivered a homily recently asking for faithful Catholics to vote "No."

“The only kind of friendship the state has a proper interest in recognizing and regulating is heterosexual marriage, because that’s what leads to children — new citizens — and gives them the best start in life,” Fisher said, according to the The Australian newspaper.

However, for Probert it’s simple. He wants a "yes" in this postal vote for the same reason his parents said "yes" and married each other roughly 30 years ago.

“I want to be able to say to my boyfriend ‘I love you, and I want you to be a part of my life forever,’” Probert explained. “And I think the marriage ceremony is a very powerful, meaningful way of saying that.”

For Probert, this vote is a moment in Australian history when he and his rights are on trial in front of the public, and it shouldn’t be that way. He said he shouldn’t have to wait to find out if he can marry someone he loves.

After Nov. 7 and once the votes are tallied, Probert said he will know whether to organize a party or whether to cry.

“We’re still people, and we deserve the same rights as every other citizen,” Probert said.

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