Politics

A Marriage Equality Bill Has Passed The Senate For The First Time

BREAKING: Yes!

Guys, we did it. In an historic moment, the Senate has just passed the marriage equality bill that was introduced by Liberal Senator Dean Smith, voting 43-12 in favour of same-sex marriage.

While marriage equality is not yet law — the bill must still go to the House of Representatives — this is an extraordinary milestone. The vote follows several days of heated, emotional debate in the Senate, which in turn follow several long months of postal survey campaigning. It represents the Parliament moving to reflect the resounding Yes the Australian people gave it.

A “Proud Day” For Parliament

Speaking on the bill, Labor’s Penny Wong called equality a persistent and defining principle.

“Laws matter. They endow rights. But they do more than this. They express our values — who we are and what we believe as a nation,” she said.

Attorney General George Brandis said he was glad Australians were given a say on marriage equality through the postal survey.

“I am so glad it happened this way. I am so glad we involved every man and woman in Australia in this historic decision. I am delighted the result was an overwhelming yes,” he said.

The bill’s author, Liberal Senator Dean Smith, said the bill would have a profound and unknowable impact on millions of Australians.

“We will never truly know what it means for the young Australian boy or girl who is working out that they are gay or lesbian or intersex or transgender,” he said in the final speech before voting. “They will quickly realise they have nothing to fear.”

“We want the very best for our citizens, that they are loved and be loved. We want them to experience joy and hope and to experience exhilaration and its companion heartache because that is what it means to be human.”

Conservative Amendments Voted Down

The bill was supported by most Labor Senators, the Greens, NXT, David Leyonhjelm and Derryn Hinch. It was opposed by several conservative Liberals, some One Nation senators, Cory Bernardi and a small group of Labor Senators who were given a conscience vote.

Other Senators, including Pauline Hanson, Liberal minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells Nationals Bridget McKenzie and Barry O’Sullivan, abstained from voting.

The bill was supported by most Labor Senators, the Greens, NXT, David Leyonhjelm and Derryn Hinch. It was opposed by several conservative Liberals, some One Nation senators, Cory Bernardi, Lucy Gichuhi and Labor Senators Chris Ketter and Helen Polley, who were given a conscience vote.

Other Senators, including Pauline Hanson, Liberal ministers Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Michaelia Cash, Nationals Bridget McKenzie and Barry O’Sullivan, abstained from voting.

None of the proposed “religious freedom” amendments put forward by conservatives and libertarians passed after two days of debate. All the proposed amendments were ultimately voted down, including several amendments which sought to expand the circumstances under which celebrants and service providers could refuse their services to same-sex weddings.

The final bill allows only religious marriage celebrants to refuse to solemnise same-sex marriages: all other civil celebrants, bakers, florists and others will required to suck it up and treat all marriages equally.

Conservatives were pretty unhappy with this outcome, claiming that not enough attention was given to religious freedoms, but acknowledged that they didn’t have the numbers to resist.

At the moment the bill passed, cheers erupted from the public gallery where several prominent same-sex marriage campaigners were watching. On the floor of the chamber, many of the Senators who voted for marriage equality hugged and cheered.

The bill will be debated in the House of Representatives and is expected to pass next week.