La­bor to vote against amend­ments to same-sex mar­riage bill

The Guardian Australia - - News - Paul Karp

La­bor MPs and sen­a­tors will all vote against sub­stan­tive amend­ments to the cross-party same-sex mar­riage bill, a move that is likely to ex­tin­guish the hopes of Coali­tion con­ser­va­tives and the Greens of mak­ing changes to the bill.

On Tues­day the bill passed its se­cond read­ing with­out op­po­si­tion – the first time one of the fed­eral houses of par­lia­ment has voted in favour of mar­riage equal­ity.

At a doorstop the La­bor leader in the Se­nate, Penny Wong, and shadow at­tor­ney gen­eral, Mark Drey­fus, an­nounced the party would only agree to tech­ni­cal amend­ments but no sub­stan­tive changes.

La­bor’s Jac­inta Collins told the Se­nate La­bor sen­a­tors had not been bound to vote against amend­ments, but none in­tended to ex­er­cise their right to a con­science vote.

Collins said the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to “kick the can down the road” by set­ting up the Rud­dock re­view into re­li­gious free­doms left La­bor sen­a­tors with “reser­va­tions” that the amend­ments be­fore the Se­nate could be prop­erly dealt with.

Be­fore the de­ci­sion, half a dozen La­bor sen­a­tors had re­served their po­si­tion on amend­ments, leav­ing open the prospect Coali­tion con­ser­va­tives could use La­bor votes to make changes in­clud­ing al­low­ing civil cel­e­brants to re­ject same-sex wed­dings.

In de­bate on Mon­day even­ing the La­bor se­na­tor He­len Pol­ley had voiced con­cerns about the need to pro­tect re­li­gious free­dom and free­dom of speech, but con­cluded that now was the time to “move on and ... get this done”.

Drey­fus said no La­bor MPs and sen­a­tors had asked for a con­science vote on amend­ments, which sug­gests they will all abide by the col­lec­tive de­ci­sion to vote down sub­stan­tive changes.

La­bor MPs and sen­a­tors still have a con­science vote on the fi­nal bill, and Don Far­rell con­firmed he will vote against mar­riage equal­ity.

Far­rell told the Se­nate that the postal sur­vey re­sult was not unan­i­mous and his no vote would re­flect op­po­si­tion to same-sex mar­riage, but noted that La­bor sen­a­tors had agreed they would not vote up amend­ments on re­li­gious free­dom.

Ear­lier, at the doorstop, Wong thanked her col­leagues who she ac­knowl­edged had a dif­fer­ent view about mar­riage and re­li­gious free­doms for their “hon­ourable” course of ac­tion and the col­le­giate “col­lec­tive” ap­proach they had taken.

Coali­tion con­ser­va­tives have pro­posed amend­ments to shield re­li­gious bod­ies, char­i­ties and pub­lic officials from un­favourable treat­ment for hold­ing tra­di­tional mar­riage views, and to give cel­e­brants the abil­ity to re­ject same-sex wed­dings.

The Greens have pro­posed an amend­ment to re­move a new cat­e­gory of “re­li­gious mar­riage cel­e­brant”, be­cause they op­pose the abil­ity of cur­rent civil cel­e­brants to reg­is­ter to re­ject wed­dings based on their re­li­gious views.

The cross-party group of La­bor, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and Lib­eral sup­port­ers of same­sex mar­riage are be­lieved to have the num­bers to de­feat con­ser­va­tive amend­ments. La­bor’s op­po­si­tion dooms the Greens amend­ments to de­feat.

Wong said the cross-party bill au­thored by Dean Smith was an ac­cept­able com­pro­mise, and in­cluded pro­vi­sions La­bor “wouldn’t

have in­cluded” if it had drafted it alone.

Drey­fus said that was the na­ture of com­pro­mise that “not all par­ties are com­pletely happy with ev­ery as­pect of it”.

Wong said she “be­lieved and hoped” par­lia­men­tar­i­ans would not vote for amend­ments that would “de­rail the pas­sage” of a same-sex mar­riage bill, af­ter 61.6% of Aus­tralians voted in favour of mar­riage equal­ity.

The Se­nate de­bate re­sumed on Tues­day with the One Na­tion leader, Pauline Han­son, adopting a num­ber of themes of the no cam­paign, warn­ing about un­re­lated con­cerns in­clud­ing gay par­ent­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion lit­i­ga­tion and the anti-bul­ly­ing pro­gram Safe Schools.

Han­son con­firmed she had voted no in the sur­vey but said she was “very di­vided” and still un­de­cided about how she would vote in the par­lia­ment. One Na­tion mem­bers will have a con­science vote, she said.

The bill moved into the com­mit­tee stage for con­sid­er­a­tion of amend­ments early on Tues­day af­ter­noon. If a vote on the third read­ing is passed it will go to the lower house.

Penny Wong said the La­bor the party would only agree to tech­ni­cal amend­ments but no sub­stan­tive changes to Dean Smith’s same-sex mar­rige bill. Pho­to­graph: Mike Bow­ers for the Guardian

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