While Australia's LGBTQ community is waiting with bated breath for a nationwide vote on whether to legalise gay marriage, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has recommended to the government that the plebiscite be delayed. A spokesman for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, however, has clarified that no specific date has been decided and that the event will probably take place early 2017.
Turnbull is expected to announce the timeline at a coalition party-room meeting on September 13, according to The Telegraph. "Late last week the AEC provided advice to the Special Minister of State that strongly recommended against the conduct of a plebiscite this calendar year," the spokeswoman told Reuters, hinting at a February date.
"The government has always said that a decision on same-sex marriage will be made by a vote of all Australians in a national plebiscite to be held as soon as practicable," she added. "That commitment has not changed."
The vote, which will be based on a simple yes or no question regarding whether Australians approve of a law allowing people of the same sex to marry, is long overdue and the country has already received criticism from international human rights groups for dragging their feet with it.
"The mechanics of the plebiscite, including the specific question and also the timing, are subject to the usual cabinet processes. No decisions have as yet been made," the spokeswoman explained. According to the AEC, the whole process is expected to cost taxpayers AUD$160m ($122m, £93m).
During previous elections, Turnbull stressed that he would give voters a say in the matter of this law but since then has altered his stand and in June said that a plebiscite "was not my idea".
"My preference was to have it dealt with by a conscience vote, a free vote in the parliament," he said.