It Looks Like It’s All Over For the Marriage Equality Plebiscite

It looks like there won't be a plebiscite but what's next for marriage equality?

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Bill Shorten has spent the last couple of days ramping up attacks on the proposed marriage equality plebiscite, and it now looks as though the Labor party will block it from going ahead. According to reports Shorten will recommend to the Labor caucus that the party vote against legislation to enable the plebiscite.

The Australian Financial Review is reporting that Shorten’s recommendation is a solid indication that Labor will block the plebiscite in parliament, but the formal decision won’t be made for three weeks.

Earlier this week Shorten started to lay into the idea of a plebiscite. “Let me be as blunt as possible: a ‘no’ campaign would be an emotional torment for gay teenagers, and if one child commits suicide over the plebiscite, then that is one too many,” he said. Other Labor MP’s also joined in to express their discomfort about the idea of a national vote on marriage equality.

“We’ll wait and see the legislation before caucus meets and makes a determination but I haven’t heard anyone arguing on the Labor side that the idea of a plebiscite is a great idea,” said Anthony Albanese. Another Labor MP, Graham Perrett, said the plebiscite legislation had “a snowflake’s chance in hell” of passing the senate.

Yesterday the government announced that it would seek to fund both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns. TV networks would also be forced to run ads for and against marriage equality. The marriage equality movement has since firmed up its opposition to the plebiscite and has been lobbying MPs in Canberra to stop it from going ahead.

Because the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team have already announced they will block the plebiscite, Labor’s decision means the government won’t have the numbers to get it through the senate. The government has already said that if the plebiscite doesn’t go ahead there is no backup plan for marriage equality in this term of parliament.

But marriage equality campaigners, Labor and the Greens are likely to pile pressure on Malcolm Turnbull to allow a free vote of MPs and pass a bill legislating marriage equality as soon as possible.