Senate passes same-sex marriage bill in Australia

By @chelean on
Members of Sydney's gay community react as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage
Members of Sydney's gay community react as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a pub located on Sydney's Oxford street, Australia, November 15, 2017. Reuters/Steven Saphore

Australia got closer to legalising marriage equality. The Senate passed the same-sex marriage bill 43-12 on Wednesday.

Most members of the Labor party, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team voted in favour of the bill after rejecting proposed amendments by conservative senators. The bill will then be debated in the House of Representatives on Monday. Should it be approved, it will become law.

The cross-party bill was introduced by Liberal Senator Dean Smith, who credited his vote to the death of gay man Tori Johnson in the Lindt Chocolate Café siege in 2014. Smith, who is gay, said his vote would have been a “No” three years ago. However, the tragic fate of the café manager changed his mind.

“At 33,000ft on a flight from Perth to Albany, I reflected on the life of Tori Johnson,” he said. “Tori lost his life in the Lindt café siege. He was brave, he was courageous, and he had a partner named Thomas.”

Smith said he reflected on the love shared by Johnson and his partner, as well as Thomas’ loss. “I realised that people with real lives deserved their love to be blessed and affirmed by the institution of marriage if they so choose.”

Labor Senator Penny Wong said the win of the bill was a historic event. “It wasn’t long ago it was legal to discriminate against us simply for who we are,” she said. “But equality is a remarkably persistent principle.”

Attorney General George Brandis said the passing of the bill would send a message to vulnerable young people that there was nothing wrong with them. “You are not unusual, you are not abnormal. You are just you,” he said on Tuesday.

Proposed amendments to the bill that were voted down included creating two definitions of marriage for people to choose from (between “man and a woman” and between “two people”), as well as protections to civil celebrants refusing to marry same-sex couples. The bill includes the creation of new “religious marriage celebrants” who may refuse to conduct gay marriages.

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