A plebiscite on same-sex marriage, and legislation to change the Marriage Act if the plebiscite is carried, will be held by the end of this year, the attorney general, George Brandis, has confirmed.
The plebiscite will be held shortly afterwards, and a parliamentary vote after that but still before the end of 2016, Brandis said.
However, a spokeswoman for the prime minister refused to back a solid timeframe for the public vote, saying the plebiscite would occur “as soon as possible after an election”. The timing of the election will determine the timing of the plebiscite.
The timeframe means that marriage equality could be a reality by the end of the year despite who wins the next election. The Labor party has pledged to introduce legislation, which would be subject to a free vote for its members, within 100 days of being elected.
In August, the Coalition party room debated allowing its members a free vote. The proposal was shot down, with the party choosing the plebiscite option instead.