Australian parliament gets bill to set up gay marriage vote

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister has introduced legislation to Parliament to allow a public but non-binding vote on gay marriage early next year.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced the bill on Wednesday on the first anniversary of his ascension to the top government job.

He replaced Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who proposed that the public decide the issue with a popular vote and avoid a bitter debate in Parliament.

But the Feb. 11 plebiscite would have no legal weight. Parliament would ultimately decide whether the law would be changed.

Turnbull told Parliament that the real reason marriage equality advocates opposed the plebiscite was because they thought enough lawmakers already supported the reform for it to become law. They didn’t want to take the risk of the public voting against marriage equality.

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