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Plebiscite a delaying tactic?

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August 10, 2017

Shepparton LGBTI advocate and GV Pride spokesman Damien Stevens is opposed to a postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage.

A High Court challenge to the Federal Government’s proposed postal vote on same-sex marriage will be lodged this week, as debate around the discussion intensifies.

The Turnbull Government was forced to adopt the option, after the Senate rejected a bid for a compulsory plebiscite on Wednesday, but local advocates say the move is a stalling mechanism for what is a human rights issue.

The decision follows tensions earlier this week, in which Liberal MPs voted in favour of a plebiscite, amid a party split.

Shepparton LGBTI advocate and GV Pride spokesman Damien Stevens said the community had been disappointed, saddened and frustrated by the decision.

He said a postal plebiscite was non-binding, not compulsory and would encourage unnecessary vitriol and misinformation around the issue.

‘‘There will be people who are particularly upset and hurting because of what happened yesterday, so now is an important time to reach out to the LGBTI people to see how they’re doing and offer individual support,’’ Mr Stevens said.

‘‘If a postal plebiscite were to go through, we have a very solid, connected, supportive community here that is well insulated by many allies, friends and supporters.

‘‘I see (the move) as a delaying tactic, but we are more committed than ever to continue the fight for equal rights under civil law,’’

The Turnbull Government has proposed the Australian Bureau of Statistics run the $122million postal vote, which will start in mid-September unless a court injuncts it.

Shepparton councillor Dennis Patterson, despite his opposition to same-sex marriage, used a casting vote in 2015 to support the issue locally.

While the move has no legislative weight, Cr Patterson said it had been done so the council could move onto ‘‘more pressing issues’’, which, he said, the government should be doing now.

‘‘Some of these decisions are not easy to make, but they’re a part of the job,’’ Cr Patterson said.

Cr Patterson said he believed the largely conservative electorate of the Goulburn Valley would be unaffected by the postal vote.

‘‘A few people will think it’s extremely important and others will have no interest at all, but I think a lot of people are sick to death of the whole topic,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s very hard for any referendum to get up and running because of the way it’s formatted, but it will be interesting to see the result.’’

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