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Australia Coalition Party proposes safeguards for same-sex marriage postal survey

[JURIST] Australia's Coalition Party on Tuesday released a proposed bill to add extra protections to a same-sex marriage postal survey mailed out to the general public. The survey asks the public to vote [Guardian report] on whether same-sex marriage should be legalized, and all completed surveys must be sent back to the Australian Bureau of Statistics [official website] by November. During that voting period, under the proposed bill, vilifying, intimidating or threatening voters based on their sex, religion or personal views will be a punishable offense. The bill also prohibits any actions that may interfere with survey responses. Such punishable offenses may be subject to civil penalties, up to $12,600, or even court-ordered injunctions. Attorney General George Brandis [official profile] will have the power to veto lawsuits enforcing civil penalties and appear in cases regarding injunctions. Furthermore, communications regarding the postal survey will require authorization, and the media will be required to give equal opportunity for both sides of the national debate to express their views. The bill still requires approval from parliament before it can be put into action.

Same-sex marriage has become one of the most controversial issues in the recent past with the marriage equality movement making significant waves in the past two years. Last week, Australia's High Court dismissed [JURIST report] a challenge to the postal survey which was brought forth by proponents of marriage equality and concerned the $122 million appropriated for the purpose of the mail-in ballot. Last month, Chile President Michelle Bachelet [official profile, PDF] introduced a bill [JURIST report] that would legalize same-sex marriage. Bachelet said, "We believe that it is not ethical or just to place artificial limits on love or deny essential rights based solely on the sex of the partners." In July, Malta legalized [JURIST report] same-sex marriage. That same month, the UK Supreme Court awarded [JURIST report] equal pension rights to same-sex spouses. In June, the lower house of the German Parliament voted [JURIST report] 393-226 to legalize same-sex marriage. In April, Nigerian prosecutors in Kaduna charged [JURIST report] 53 men for celebrating an LGBTQ wedding in violation of the state's law against "unlawful assembly" and the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.

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