Australia voted in favour of same-sex marriage today, with 61.6% of the nearly 13 million people who voted in the postal survey saying yes.
As a result, a private member’s bill from Liberal senator Dean Smith to legalise same-sex marriage was introduced to the Senate this afternoon shortly after 4pm.
The bill will go to further debate tomorrow and is expected to pass through the senate by next Thursday, before it heads to the lower house when it sits from November 27.
It was drafted with support from Labor and some crossbenchers including the Greens, which means it is likely to pass through the Senate, with senators allowed a free vote, rather than being asked to vote along party lines.
The Australian parliament’s 72 senators represent their respective states or territories. Each state and territory delivered majority support for same-sex marriage. Support for SSM was highest in the ACT, with a 74%/26% yes/no split, while NSW was the lowest, at 57.8%/42.2%, while 133 of 150 electorates in the lower house returned a majority yes vote.
A rival bill from Liberal senator James Patterson was withdrawn, with the Victorian saying a majority of senators believe the Smith bill “is where we should start”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had already ruled out any chance of the Patterson bill succeeding.
But the Coalition backbencher, along with conservative colleagues, may be looking at amending the Smith bill over concerns that it does not go far enough to protect religious freedoms.
“I will now work constructively with my parliamentary colleagues over the coming weeks on amendments to ensure that the strongest possible protections for the freedoms of all Australians are enshrined in the final legislation,” he said.
And the government’s leader in Senate, Attorney-General George Brandis, saying he wanted to see further protections for people who did not want to be involved in same-sex marriages.
Brandis flagged plans to amend the bill when it goes to committee to extend the right of conscientious objection to from ministers of religion to include civil marriage celebrants.
And “to put the matter beyond doubt”, Brandis also wants to add an amendment “that nothing in the bill makes it unlawful for people to hold and to express the views of their own religion on the subject of marriage”.
Labor’s leader in the senate, Penny Wong, appealed for any proposed amendments to be introduced well in advance so they could be properly considered.
But Greens leader Richard Di Natale, a co-signatory to the Smith proposal said the chance for supporters of same-sex marriage to speak up and put forward any amendments was several months ago during the committee process when the bill was being drafted, saying the Greens would not enter into further discussions about more amendments.
Significant ground was given on all sides and the Greens made significant concessions Di Natale said, to create the cross-party Smith bill.
“The consensus position was the position that the Greens would support,” he said, saying senators should “think very very carefully about entrenching discrimination to support your colleagues rather than this bill”.
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