Se­nate stops gay mar­riage vote

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

The Aus­tralian govern­ment’s pro­posal to hold a na­tional vote on le­gal­is­ing same-sex mar­riage has been de­feated in the up­per house of par­lia­ment. The govern­ment said a non-bind­ing bal­lot, or plebiscite, was the quick­est way to amend the Mar­riage Act. Same-sex cou­ples can have civil unions or reg­is­tered re­la­tion­ships in most Aus­tralian states but they are not con­sid­ered mar­ried un­der na­tional law. Opin­ion polls in­di­cate that most Aus­tralians sup­port same-sex mar­riage. How­ever op­po­si­tion par­ties and many sup­port­ers of same-sex mar­riage ar­gued a plebiscite would be ex­pen­sive and could un­leash a di­vi­sive cam­paign. In­stead, they say par­lia­ment should make the de­ci­sion it­self. The pro­posal’s de­feat in the se­nate means the is­sue will be taken off the agenda at least un­til the next term of par­lia­ment. Mar­riage equal­ity has proved a tricky is­sue for Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull. He is per­son­ally in favour of same-sex mar­riage but is re­luc­tant to al­low his own MPs a free vote on the is­sue. La­bor Sen­a­tor Penny Wong told par­lia­ment that, af­ter much soul-search­ing, she had de­cided to op­pose the plebiscite. “We do not want our fam­i­lies and our chil­dren pub­licly den­i­grated,” she said. “This hate speech is not ab­stract, it is real, it is part of our daily life.” Greens Sen­a­tor Janet Rice spoke about the chal­lenges of her 30year mar­riage to trans­gen­der wo­man Penny. “We know that our same-sex mar­riage is just as im­por­tant and valid and deep and won­der­ful and lov­ing as our het­ero­sex­ual one was,” she said. “Peo­ple’s hu­man rights should not be sub­ject to a pop­u­lar vote.” At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Ge­orge Bran­dis ac­cused the La­bor Party of “play­ing pol­i­tics with gay peo­ple’s lives”. “A vote against this bill is a vote against mar­riage equal­ity,” Sen­a­tor Bran­dis told par­lia­ment. “Those who claim to be­lieve in mar­riage equal­ity, but nev­er­the­less, for their own cyn­i­cal, game-play­ing rea­sons, are de­ter­mined to vote against it, should hang their heads in shame.” La­bor an­nounced last month that it would not sup­port the bill, con­demn­ing it to fail in the se­nate this week. The move was cel­e­brated by same-sex mar­riage sup­port­ers who widely favour the is­sue be­ing voted on by par­lia­ment, with­out the need to put it to the pub­lic.

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