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Postal votes to hit Australian doormats for same-sex marriage vote

Australians will begin receiving their postal ballots on legalising gay marriage from Tuesday.

More than 16 million registered voters among Australia's population of 24 million will receive voting papers in the coming days requesting their opinion on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to wed.

It comes as a new opinion poll showed that most of those who intend to vote are in favour of marriage equality.

An Ipsos poll published in Fairfax Media newspapers on Tuesday found 65 percent of respondents said they were certain to take part in the survey.

Of those certain to post their ballot papers back, 70 percent said they would support gay marriage.

If the postal survey finds most Australians want gay marriage, the parliament will vote by December on legislation to lift the prohibition.

But several politicians have said they would vote against same-sex couples being able to wed regardless of public opinion.

The Ipsos poll was based on a survey of 1,400 voters between Wednesday and Saturday last week and had a 2.6 percentage point margin of error.

The result was consistent with previous polls in recent years which have shown around two-thirds of Australians support gay marriage.

But a similar proportion also want legal protections for churches' rights to refuse to marry same-sex couples and to teach that marriage should be between a man and woman.

Critics of the government's approach have argued the public should see how these rights would be protected in proposed legislation before they decide whether gay marriage should go ahead.

But the government is refusing to release a draft bill until after the people decide whether the parliament will consider any bill.

Conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and centre-left Labour Party opposition leader Bill Shorten are both campaigning for a change to the law.

But two past conservative prime ministers, Tony Abbott, who remains a politician, and John Howard, both oppose the change.

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