Marriage Equality Bill Passes Australia Senate, Moves To Lower House

An attempt to add a religious-freedom amendment to the measure failed soundly.

A marriage equality bill passed a third reading in the Senate today, the first of more than 20 such measures to ever pass either house of the Australian parliament.

The 43-12 vote came two weeks after 61.6% of voters in the national postal survey voted in favor of same-sex marriage.

Attempts to attach amendments watering down the bill’s effects failed, including one that declared “nothing in this Act limits or derogates from the right of any person, in a lawful manner, to manifest his or her religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching”.

Attorney General George Brandis, who co-authored that amendment, claimed it would assuage people arguing their religious freedom would be limited somehow. But Labor Party MP Penny Wong pointed out such an addition would have “uncertain legal effect” (Wise words considering what a hot potato religious freedom has become in this country.)

Wong said marriage equality sent a message to LGBTI people, “Your love is not lesser, and nor are you. It says, “You are one of us.”

Michael Masters/Getty Images

Other failed amendments included efforts to allow civil officiants to refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages, one preventing discrimination based on a person’s beliefs about marriage, preventing charities from losing their tax-exempt status, and one allowing parents to remove their children from classes that differed with their beliefs about marriage.

Liberal MP Simon Birmingham told ABC News the bill already contained “strong religious protections.” It’s passage in the Senate, he added, was “an historic moment in terms of delivering equality to Australians in same-sex marriage relationships around the country.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.