Australians will vote on marriage equality on February 11 next year

Picture: The Samuel Goldwyn Company/AFC

Australians will head to the ballot box on February 11, 2017 to vote on the same-sex marriage plebiscite after the federal Cabinet signed off on the plan last night.

The question the nation will answer is: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

Federal Cabinet also plans to offer $15 million – $7.5 million each for the “yes” and “no” cases – and has proposed forming 10-person committees, consisting of five MPs and five citizens, to decide how the funds are allocated. The Turnbull Cabinet also wants to cap tax deductible donations to either side to a maximum of $1,500.

Fairfax Media reports that attorney-general George Brandis would select the panel members.

The Coalition is now debating endorsing the plan at its Tuesday party room meeting.

Meanwhile, there’s concern that Labor will block the plebiscite, which may lead to the plan being defeated in the Senate, after shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said the government should reconsider funding the no case.

“This idea that there should be public funding of the ‘no’ campaign is something that takes this plebiscite even further away from something that Labor could support,” he said.

Dreyfus said the question’s proposed wording was “selected by the people who want this plebiscite to fail”.

Yesterday in Parliament, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the plebiscite would be “utterly fair” and funding for both sides of the question would be “scrupulously equal” after Opposition leader Bill Shorten introduced a private members bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, “no” campaigner Lyle Shelton, director of the Australian Christian Lobby, said he wanted $15 million in taxpayer funds from the campaign, claiming the other side of the argument could face “a big influx of overseas money”.

But Shelton added that he’d look at using the money to campaign on other issues opposed by the ACL, such as the Safe Schools program and the racial discrimination act.

Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays spokesperson Sharyn Faulkner said her organisation wants Labor to block the plebiscite in the Senate.

“We cannot countenance taxpayers’ money being spent on what is likely to be hurtful, harmful and even hateful campaign materials from the ‘no’ case,” she said.

Marriage equality advocate Rodney Croome, said the Cabinet plan showed the Coalition’s right wing had control of the plebiscite.

“The right wing of the Coalition appears to be dictating terms on the plebiscite which will make the LGBTI community even more hostile to the proposal,” he said.

“As well as rejecting public funding, I am concerned about the proposed question which should be as simple as possible.

“Asking about a ‘change to the law’ is unnecessary and distracts attention from the key issue. A simple question would be something like ‘do you believe same-sex couples should be able to marry’.”

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