Years of divisive public and political debate over same-sex marriage in Australia will come to a head today when the results of the postal survey are announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, The Age reports.
A diverse group of senators has moved swiftly to ensure legislation - authored by Liberal backbencher Dean Smith - will be debated as soon as tomorrow, with the goal of legalising same-sex marriage by Christmas if a Yes vote is returned.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull flew in to Australia overnight following a five-day series of leader meetings in southeast Asia. He is expected to address the public shortly after ABS head David Kalisch reveals the result during a media conference broadcast by all major television networks at 10am.
A fierce parliamentary debate over religious exemptions is expected to follow the announcement. Yesterday, Mr Turnbull slapped down his conservative colleagues by declaring Australians would not accept any watering down of existing anti-discrimination laws.
Mr Turnbull was responding to demands from some Liberals, led by Victorian senator James Paterson, that business owners should be able to refuse service for gay weddings based on religious or "conscientious" beliefs. That would involve overriding existing discrimination laws and creating special dispensation for people who held the "relevant belief" that homosexual relationships are unholy or immoral.
In remarks praised by his moderate Liberal allies as "strong", Mr Turnbull argued Australians would not support such moves - and neither would the Parliament.
"I don't believe Australians would welcome - and certainly the government would not countenance - making legal discrimination that is illegal, that is unlawful today," Mr Turnbull said.
Ideas of the kind Senator Paterson proposed "would have virtually no prospect of getting through the Parliament", Mr Turnbull added.
The Smith bill, or the rival legislation proposed by Senator Paterson, would be subject to a series of conscience votes on both sides, requiring a majority from the collective pool of Coalition, Labor and Greens MPs.
A spokeswoman for the Coalition for Marriage said the Prime Minister's remarks were "surprising, given that he recently said that he believed more strongly in religious freedom than in same-sex marriage".
Marriage vote: Key conservatives vow to amend Smith bill to protect objectors (Sydney Morning Herald)