Australian gay marriage plan. What should we worry about?

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CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media after winning the leadership ballot at Parliament House on September 14, 2015 in Canberra, Australia. Malcolm Turnbull announced this morning he would be challenging Tony Abbott for the Liberal Party leadership. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Malcolm Turnbull has repeatedly blocked free Parliamentary votes on equal marriage, instead making plans to take the issue to the public in a non-binding plebiscite (public vote) to avoid a rift with his own conservative anti-gay politicians.

Ahead of confirmation that the plebiscite will be held next February, a draft question was leaked to the media this week.It reads: “Do you approve of a law to permit people of the same sex to marry?” Activists are concerned about the wording of the draft question – which does not seek a direct mandate to equalise existing marriage laws to same-sex couples , leaving wiggle room for same-sex unions to be watered down at the legislative stage. As no draft legislation has been released so far, the question leaves an opportunity to a same-sex union compromise that may end up governed separately from the ‘institution of marriage’ even in the event of a resounding Yes vote.

Brian Greig, spokesperson for lobbying group Just.Equal, said the “sneaky wording” of the question avoids any mention of equal inclusion under the existing Marriage Act. He said: “This wording is deeply concerning because it suggests that the government wants to create a separate area of marriage law only for same-sex couples, rather than include them in existing laws. That’s not equality, that’s segregation. I call on the Attorney to show the Australian people exactly what marriage legislation will be presented to parliament if the plebiscite is successful. The voters have a right to know exactly what the Bill will look like after a plebiscite so they can make an informed decision as they vote. Australians do not want to be duped into voting for what they think is marriage equality, if in fact the government is planning segregated marriage along with excluding transgender and intersex people from any future legislation.”

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