While polling shows that the Yes vote is set to win the marriage equality postal survey and PM Malcolm Turnbull expects equality to be legislated before Christmas, conservatives plan to stall legislation and weaken protections for LGBTI people.
6PM on Friday 27th October is the deadline to post your marriage equality postal survey back. Any forms received by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) after November 7 will be invalid and the results of the survey will be published on the ABS website on November 15.
As of Tuesday 24th October, the ABS had received an estimated 11.9 million forms (74.5 per cent), which means three out of four eligible Australians have posted their vote.
The Yes vote is expected to win, with the latest Guardian Essential poll finding that more than half of people who have returned their ballot say they have voted Yes for marriage equality. The poll shows higher participation for older people, with 91% of people aged over 55 reporting they have voted compared to 60% of people aged under 35.
Prime Minister Turnbull is confident that a Yes win will lead to marriage equality legislation by the end of the year, telling news.com.au that "If there is a 'yes' vote, then we will ensure there is a private members' bill to legalise same-sex marriage, and I have no doubt the parliament will deal with that before we all break up in December.”
Liberal Senator Dean Smith has designed a cross-party marriage equality bill that Labor supports in its current form. The bill offers limited protections for religious ministers, civil celebrants and religious organisations, however conservatives want stronger protections for conscientious objectors to same-sex marriage and are working on an alternate bill.
On Thursday morning, Senator Corey Bernardi told Radio National Breakfast that conservatives won’t be pushed into marriage equality legislation, saying "I do note that a senior government minister has said we will sit until Christmas Eve to make this happen.”
"But I don't want to legislate in haste. I would rather make sure that if we're going to make a profound change to one of our great institutions that we're doing it with a great deal of prudence."
"I've repeatedly said that I'll be representing the views of those who vote 'no'. I won't be voting to redefine marriage. But I think that this process, with all its flaws, and there are flaws within it, I recognise that it is going to inform the role of the parliament."
Conservatives effectively want to weaken protections for LGBTI people, arguing that marriage equality legislation will discriminate against conscientious objectors because of their religion or political opinion.
They are proposing protections for individuals & organisations to refuse service for a same-sex wedding or celebration, protect individuals freedom to voice their opinion about marriage, ensure government action doesn't "inappropriately undermine parental duties" and prohibit government bodies, companies and individuals from discriminating against conscientious objectors.
Co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich told BuzzFeed News "Australians are voting for marriage equality, they're not voting to increase discrimination."
"After having advocated so strongly for the plebiscite, to then towards the end try to further complicate things and drag them out, it's a sign that there are people on the 'no' side who are just interested in playing politics with the lives of gay and lesbian people."
And if the No vote wins the marriage equality postal survey? On Thursday Ian Thorpe told reporters "It would be really difficult to be in a country where we haven't voted for equality, where we haven't voted for fairness."
"We will keep fighting for it, but I don't think we're going to get a no vote. I think it will be a resounding yes."