In August, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised that a ‘yes’ result in the voluntary postal survey that we’ve all been dutifully returning will guarantee a conscience vote in parliament more or less immediately. "If the nation votes 'yes' then we will facilitate a private member's Bill to make same-sex marriage legal before the end of the year," he said.
He even said that he thinks it will “sail” through parliament unhindered.
It may not be quite that straightforward. At this stage it seems like two bills are being prepared for Parliament’s consideration. One comes from Liberal senator Dean Smith, who has said he will put his proposal in front of parliament on Thursday – whether the survey result is yes or no.
It includes provisions that exempt religious organisations, like churches, from conducting same-sex marriages if they object on conscientious grounds.
But in the last day another proposed bill has appeared, drafted by another Liberal senator, James Paterson. His bill goes much further than Sen. Smith’s in ‘protecting religious freedoms’ or ‘discriminating against Australian citizens” – choose your poison – and would allow “people to refuse to participate in a same-sex wedding if that goes against their beliefs”.
This would inevitably extend to wedding businesses – such as cake makers or florists. It also includes a provision to allow parents to remove their children from classes that don’t reflect their views on marriage.
Critics have said that could lead to unnecessary, bigoted confusion. It’s not impossible to imagine limousine drivers leaving brides or grooms stranded on their wedding days because of sudden objections.
At this stage, it looks like Sen. Smith’s bill will be the one to make it to a vote. It’s already been through a cross-party Senate committee process and has broad support in parliament.
Sen. Paterson’s proposal has been less than warmly received. "[Senator Paterson's bill] is one more delaying tactic from the people who brought you the $122-million, waste-of-money postal survey that we've just subjected the nation to," said Labor MP Tanya Pilbersek.
Encouragingly, the ABC polled representatives around the country to ask how they’d vote if a bill was put to parliament after the results. Overwhelmingly, the response was yes, with 71 per cent of the lower house promising to vote to allow same sex couples to marry, and 69 per cent of the senate promising to follow suit. Find out how your local member intends to vote here.
Others have said they will wait for the vote before they make a call, but those numbers alone will be enough to secure a win.
In short, a yes result isn’t the end of the road. But it will be good enough to warrant a few cautiously-popped champagne corks.
Enjoy the win, Australia, and let’s get down to the dirty work as quickly as we can once the hangovers wear off.