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Australian parliament votes down proposal for same-sex marraige

The government allows MPs to have a free vote in the House of Representatives – meaning a 98-42 defeat.

Prime minister Julia Gillard gave Australian government MPs a free vote on the matter of gay marriage.
Prime minister Julia Gillard gave Australian government MPs a free vote on the matter of gay marriage.
Image: Rob Griffith/AP

AUSTRALIA’S PARLIAMENT has voted overwhelmingly to reject gay marriage, after days of heated debate that saw one senator resign from a key role after linking same-sex unions to bestiality.

The House of Representatives voted down the bill to legalise marriage between same sex couples by 98 votes to 42, with Labor prime minister Julia Gillard and opposition conservative leader Tony Abbott both voting against it.

Gillard had allowed Labor MPs a conscience vote on the issue – meaning they were free to vote how they wanted rather than along party lines – while the opposition had opposed it.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese, who voted for the reform, said despite the bill’s failure the figures were encouraging.

“Just a few years ago there wouldn’t have been the support of anything like 42 votes on the floor of the national parliament for a marriage equality bill,” he told reporters.

“All the figures show that there is majority community support on this issue… and I think at some future time, parliament will catch up with the community opinion.”

‘What’s next?’ asks senator

The vote ends several days of debate on the bill, during which one senator sparked outrage by linking same-sex marriage to sex with animals. The furore surrounding the comments forced him to resign from his parliamentary role.

Speaking on the bill last night, outspoken Liberal senator Cory Bernardi said he questioned what the next step would be if the government redefined marriage so that two people could wed regardless of their gender.

“The next step, quite frankly, is having three people or four people that love each other being able to enter into a permanent union endorsed by society,” he told the Senate.

“There are even some creepy people out there… (who) say it is okay to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals. Will that be a future step?”

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Elements within the Liberal Party slammed the comments, including high-profile former leader Malcolm Turnbull who described them as “hysterical, alarmist, offensive”.

Liberal leader Abbott said Bernardi had offered today to resign his position as his parliamentary secretary as a result, and he had accepted this.

New Zealand’s parliament approved legislation allowing same-sex marriage only last month.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: Dublin City Council votes ‘Yes’ to marriage equality

More: French government unveils details of plans to allow gay marriage

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