Australian public vote on same-sex marriage defeated in Senate

Canberra, Nov 8 (IANS) The Australian government’s bid to give the nation a vote on same-sex marriage was defeated in the Senate on Tuesday.

The Opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) and cross-bench parties the Greens, Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) and independent Senator Derryn Hinch combined to defeat the bill by 33 votes to 29, Xinhua news agency reported.

George Brandis, Australia’s Attorney-General and leader of the Liberal National Party (LNP) in the Senate, warned the ALP and the cross-benchers opposing the plebiscite would delay same-sex marriage in Australia for years to come.

The ALP argued that the plebiscite, which is to going to be held in February 2017, will create a harmful debate against Australia’s gay and lesbian community. It campaigned for a free vote in Parliament instead.

The vote ends three years of public debate over the plebiscite which was first proposed by former LNP Prime Minister Tony Abbott and continued by his successor, current premier Malcolm Turnbull, who took the proposal as a key policy to July’s Federal Election.

“Stop playing politics with gay people’s lives, because that is all you are doing,” Brandis told parliament before the vote was held.

“A vote against this bill is a vote against marriage equality.”

“And 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.”

Penny Wong, leader of the ALP in the Senate, told Parliament that Labor opposed the plebiscite because “we did not want our families and our children denigrated.”

She said that those opposed to same-sex marriage “will stoop to any argument to prevent change”.

“We do not trust this prime minister to stand up for us, our children and for our community,” Wong said.

“We know their weakness in the face of prejudice.”

LNP Members of Parliament (MPs) said that the government would not re-visit same-sex marriage for the foreseeable future.