Australian government defeated over plan for public vote on same-sex marriage

A bill to take same-sex marriage to a public vote in Australia has been shot down in the Senate, leaving the future of equality in doubt.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had attempted to avoid a rift with his own ultra-conservative MPs by bringing forward plans to take same-sex marriage to the public in a non-binding plebiscite.

However, opposition parties rallied against the plans, today blocking progress in the Senate with the support of the country’s main LGBT groups.

In a late-night Senate vote, the plebiscite bill was voted down by 33 votes to 29.

Critics saw the plebiscite plan as expensive, divisive and largely redundant. LGBT activists say equal marriage could be passed by a simple vote in Parliament – but there is no guarantee a vote will come about.

Nonetheless, LGBT activists celebrated the defeat of the plebiscite law.

Alex Greenwich, Co-Chair, Australian Marriage Equality said: “The majority of Australians and parliamentarians back marriage equality and believe this issue can be resolved by a vote in this parliament, allowing every Australian to marry the person they love.

“Now that the plebiscite legislation is dead, we again call on marriage equality supporters across all political parties to work together to find a pathway.

“Marriage equality is a straightforward reform that will not cost anything or take anything from anyone but will offer a profound difference to the status and dignity of many.

“The majority of Australians and politicians want every Australian to be able to marry the person they love. It is time our parliamentarians found a fair and dignified pathway that ensured every Australian is treated equal.”

Anna Brown, Co-Chair of Australians for Equality said: “Our campaign will continue to build on the momentum and energy across the nation for marriage equality, bringing supporters together, holding community events and forums.

“The campaign will continue to remind our MPs that fairness and equality are at the heart of Australian society. Marriage is about the commitment shared between two people who love each other and want a secure future. This is good for our community and our nation.

“Fairness and equality are at the heart of Australian society and we believe our laws should reflect these values of which we are most proud.”

PFLAG national spokesperson, Shelley Argent, said: “Rights across Australia parents of LGBTI children will breathe a sigh of relief that this damaging, unnecessary plebiscite is no longer an issue to fear.

“Our job now will be to put a bit of backbone into Liberals who support marriage equality so they either persuade their party to have a free vote or cross the floor to vote reform through.”

Rainbow Families Victoria spokesperson, Felicity Marlowe said: “I’m so proud of all our Rainbow Families who have consistently stood up and say for our kids’ sake, please no plebiscite under any circumstances.”

“We know a plebiscite would have had a huge impact on our children’s mental health and wellbeing and I’m so grateful a majority of Senators listened to us.”

Just.equal spokesperson, Ivan Hinton-Teoh said: “The defeat of the plebiscite is a great example of people power at work and I believe the same people power will prevail in winning marriage equality.

“We reject the Government’s rhetoric that it’s a plebiscite or nothing and believe there is a path way through Parliament.

“We will be working for a cross-party bill to be introduced in the Senate where there is clearly strong support for marriage equality.”

Long-time marriage equality advocate Rodney Croome said: “I take my hat off to all those many Australians who have taken action against a divisive and damaging plebiscite.

“The fact the Senate voted down a plebiscite has potentially saved the lives of young LGBTI people who are vulnerable to the kind of hate that would have strode the national stage during a plebiscite campaign.

“I now look forward to working with marriage equality supporters across the Parliament and across the community to finally pass this urgent reform.”