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Australia High Court allows same-sex marriage survey vote

[JURIST] The Australia High Court [official website] on Thursday unanimously dismissed [transcript, PDF] a legal challenge to a same-sex marriage postal survey, thereby allowing the general public to vote directly on whether same-sex marriage should be legalized. The focus of the legal challenge to the survey was more on a financial level than on a social level. The challenge to the postal survey was brought forth by proponents of marriage equality and concerned the $122 million appropriated for the purpose of the mail-in ballot. These plaintiffs argued that the government is attempting to fund the survey illegitimately by using a special reserve of the budget which is only to be used for "urgent" or "unforeseen" matters. In setting the stage, the court first refused to answer any questions in relation to the plaintiff's legal standing to challenge the survey. However, the court unanimously concluded [The Australian report] that Section 10 of the Appropriation Act of 2017-18 [text] authorizes the Finance Minister to "make provision for expenditure that is outside the ordinary annual services of the Government" and that the plaintiffs are not entitled to any relief in this challenge. Furthermore, the court ordered that the plaintiffs must pay the costs of the entire case. Essentially this means that the Australian Bureau of Statistics [official website] can now conduct the survey and the $122 million can be used for funding the survey costs. The marriage equality proponents brought forth this challenge because they believed such a public vote would be very divisive [SMH report], but are now confident that enough voters will vote "yes" on legalizing same-sex marriage. The postal survey will be mailed out starting Tuesday with a due date of November 7 for returning the completed surveys. The verdict is to be announced November 15. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull [official website] promised to initiate a private member's legislation to legalize same-sex marriage if a majority of the public vote "yes" on the ballot.

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 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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