8 Nov 2016

Australian senate blocks same-sex marriage plebiscite bill

7:28 am on 8 November 2016

The Australian government's bid to hold a plebiscite on whether to legalise same sex marriage has been defeated in the Senate.

The proposal was voted down on Monday night in the Upper House 33 votes to 29.

Attorney-General George Brandis had warned that a defeat would result in delaying same sex marriage in Australia for years to come.

A protester waves a rainbow coloured flag at a marriage equality rally outside Town Hall in Sydney, Australia on August 9, 2015.

A marriage equality rally in Sydney in August 2015. Photo: AFP / Citizenside

But the Federal Opposition said the plebiscite would have resulted in harmful debate against the gay and lesbian community and wanted a direct vote in Parliament instead.

It ends 14 months of debate over the fate of the plebiscite, first proposed by the former prime minister Tony Abbott and taken by his successor Malcolm Turnbull to the 2016 federal election.

The Federal Government said it was the quickest way to achieve same sex marriage, promising a plebiscite would be held in February 2017, with Mr Turnbull confident it would be supported by the public.

But the Federal Opposition, joined by an increasing number of gay and lesbian groups, argued it would result in divisive debate that would have hurt vulnerable members of the community.

It also attacked the proposed $170 million price tag for the plebiscite.

Attorney-General George Brandis earlier criticised Labor for opposing the plebiscite.

"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," he told Parliament

Labor Senator Louise Pratt described the plebiscite as "an utterly demeaning act."

LGBTI community lobbied against plebiscite

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said the gay and lesbian community had lobbied strongly for the plebiscite bill to be defeated.

"I've lost count of the number of my LGBTIQ friends who have urged and begged us not to support this plebiscite."

Chair of Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich said supporters of same sex marriage should refocus efforts on a direct vote in Parliament to change the Marriage Act.

No same-sex marriage until at least 2019?

Nationals MP Andrew Broad said government would not revisit same sex marriage for the foreseeable future, saying that the plebiscite was the only pathway towards marriage equality.

"If the Labor Party wants to block that [the plebiscite] then there will be not vote on same sex marriage for this term, and I anticipate that will probably be our policy heading into another term of government," he said.

Mr Broad said there wouldn't be a conscience vote offered to Government MPs and Senators on this issue.

Mr Turnbull has not spelled out what he would if the plebiscite was voted down, but Mr Broad said the Prime Minister is committed to the plebiscite, despite arguing against it when it was initially made Coalition policy.

"I actually believe that the Prime Minister believes in the Australian's right to decide this one," Mr Broad said. "He's very much firmed in that position."


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