Australia’s same-sex marriage legislation is one step closer to becoming law following a massive endorsement in the Senate.
The bill passed 43 votes to 12, with several senators, including One Nation’s Pauline Hanson and cabinet minister Michaelia Cash, abstaining from the vote. There are 76 senators, with a number seeming to disappear when the vote was called.
Hanson said she was abstaining because the bill lacked protections for those against gay marriage.
The 12 MPs who voted no include Coalition senators Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Eric Abetz, Matt Canavan, Barry O’Sullivan, John Williams and Slade Brockman, Labor’s Chris Ketter and Helen Polley, independents Fraser Anning, Lucy Gichuhu, and Cory Bernardi, and One Nation’s Brian Burston.
Abetz previously said he’d vote with the majority decision of his state, but today said he was representing the 100,000 people who voted no.
— Political Alert (@political_alert) November 29, 2017
Dean Smith’s private members bill passed with just minor amendments, despite attempts by several MPs to change the legislation in a bid to protect people against being involved in a same-sex marriage on religious or “conscientious objection” grounds.
Attorney-general and senate leader George Brandis added two changes on behalf of the government with support from Labor and the Greens.
During his final speech before the vote, Smith, a Western Australian Liberal who is gay, revealed his changed his own mind on the issue following the death of Tori Johnson during the Lindt cafe siege.
December 15 marks the third anniversary of the siege in Sydney’s Martin Place, which claimed the life of the cafe manager and barrister Katrina Dawson.
Smith said he was reflecting on Johnson’s life during a flight from Perth to Albany three years ago.
“Tori lost his life in the Lindt cafe siege. He was brave, he was courageous, and he had a partner named Thomas,” he said.
“On that flight, I thought of their love, I thought of their loss and it changed me.
“I realised that people with real lives deserved their love to be blessed and affirmed by the institution of marriage if they so choose.”
Attempts to delay the legislation included debate over Victorian senator Derryn Hinch wearing a rainbow scarf in the chamber, with Queensland Liberal Ian McDonald raising the matter under standing orders on the dress code.
McDonald attempted to deliver a filibuster in which he said “many in the Labor party are not Christians and do not say the Lord’s prayer”. When he was told to stop commenting on the religion of senators he called the ruling “ridiculous”, said he didn’t do it and when asked to respect the ruling said “respect is a very two-way seat (sic)”.
The passing of the legislation provoked a standing ovation from observers in the gallery.
The bill will now head to the Lower House, but debate has been delayed until next week after prime minister cancelled this week’s sitting, citing this legislation as a priority for the government.
The House of Representatives returns next week with the legislation expected to pass before parliament rises for the summer break.
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