In Australia, Parliament voted against plans to hold a national vote in order to legalize same-sex marriage. The majority was an alliance that is supportive of marriage equality but had worries about a potential social divide. Australia has gone through a year of heated debates about who should decide the future of same-sex marriage in the country. One option would be for Australians to vote on the issue. Another option is for Parliament to decide on whether or not to change marriage laws in Australia. The country was set to hold a popular vote on the issue, but the decision in Parliament put that to rest.
The Senate in Australia’s Parliament Blocks Popular Vote
The Senate is the upper house in the Parliament of Australia. This Tuesday it blocked plans by the government to hold a popular vote on same-sex marriage in February. The Senate voted against the proposition, showing concern for the unrest that the vote might cause in society.
In one last appeal to lawmakers, Attorney General George Brandis asked Australian senators to “stop playing politics with gay people’s lives”. The attorney general supported a popular vote on the issue. The opposition had announced earlier that it was going to block the initiative for a popular vote. Attorney General George Brandis warned the opposition that a vote in the Senate against the government proposal would be “a vote against marriage equality”.
Issue of Same-Sex Marriage Left Up to Lawmakers
When the time came to put it to a vote in the Senate, it wasn’t just the conservatives that opposed a popular vote. In fact, an alliance of parties defeated the government’s proposition with most of the members being supporters of gay rights. The reasons that they gave were concern that a popular vote would also mean a divisive campaign between supporters of same-sex marriage and opponents.
The main center-left Labor opposition party and the Greens joined forces with the centrist NXT party to defeat the bill that was setting up a popular vote. The decision was 33 to 29.
Alex Greenwich is the chairman of the Australian Marriage Equality organization. He believes that the issue of same-sex marriage should be settled by lawmakers, not through a popular vote.
“We know that a majority of Australians, indeed a majority of parliamentarians, support this reform,”
said Alex Greenwich.
Since 2001, same-sex marriage has become legal in 21 countries. The United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last year. Ireland was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage through a popular vote.
At a state and federal level, Australia does guarantee protection to same-sex couples. But the debate over same-sex marriage has been going on for years. There is legislation in several states that legally recognizes same-sex civil unions. But marriage equality advocates say that those legal provisions are not enough.
According to polls, 70% of Australians support same-sex marriage. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is one of them. His constituency in more liberal inner-Sydney has a large number of voters that are in a same-sex relationship.
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