Labor to vote against amendments to same-sex marriage bill
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