Australia to Push Back Same-Sex Marriage Vote, Telegraph Says

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will reverse a promise to hold a vote on same-sex marriage this year and delay the plebiscite to 2017, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.

The plebiscite -- a vote that is non-binding, as opposed to a referendum -- will be held in February next year, the newspaper reported. The poll will be compulsory and voters will be asked: "Do you approve of a law to permit people of the same sex to marry?" the Telegraph said. Turnbull will announce the new timing at a partyroom meeting on Sept. 13 when parliament returns, according to the report.

Turnbull had gone to the election promising a vote before the end of this year. Speaking on ABC’s Q&A program in June, Turnbull said a vote would be held "as soon as practicable" after the election, and that he would "vote yes, and I will encourage others to vote yes."

Kelly O’Dwyer, Australia’s minister for revenue and financial services, said on ABC’s Insiders program Sunday that no decision had been made "as to the timing or the question" on the vote.

"The cabinet has not yet made a decision," O’Dwyer said. "The special minister of state has received very clear and very direct advice that it’s not possible to hold it by the end of the year," but "obviously the cabinet will be the ultimate decision-maker on the question and the timing of the plebiscite."

Australia has become increasingly isolated among English-speaking nations on the issue after Ireland backed marriage equality in a May 2015 referendum, and the U.S. Supreme Court in June last year recognized same-sex unions. Marriage equality legislation introduced by Australia’s opposition leader had stalled in parliament due to resistance led by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

When Turnbull seized leadership from Abbott in September last year, he promised to preserve his predecessor’s policy of giving voters a say on the matter. Turnbull said in June the 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, while chosing to stick with the decision made by the Cabinet under Abbott’s leadership.