'Historic event': Same-sex marriage bill passes the Senate

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The bill to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia has passed the Senate, 43 votes to 12, after three days of vigorous debate and a series of failed amendments.

The bill will now proceed to the Lower House next week for one final vote, before same-sex marriage is expected to pass into Australian law. 

The Dean Smith bill will next week proceed to the House of Representatives, where the majority of MPs will need to vote in favour before the Marriage Act is finally changed.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised to legalise same-sex marriage by Christmas and recently announced the House of Representatives would not break for the holidays until the law is passed.

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong gives the thumbs up after the vote for the same-sex marriage bill in the Senate.
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong gives the thumbs up after the vote for the same-sex marriage bill in the Senate.
AAP

Supporters of the law hailed a “historic event”, while one prominent No campaigner – Senator Barry O’Sullivan – congratulated supporters of the change for their success.

Only 12 senators voted No on the bill, although a number of senators including One Nation leader Pauline Hanson abstained from the vote instead. The No voters included a number of Coalition conservatives - including senators Canavan, Fierravanti-Wells and Eric Abetz - as well as Labor senators Chris Ketter and Helen Polley. 

The Liberal senator who sponsored the bill, Senator Dean Smith, said the bill was the “fulfillment” of the wishes of the Australian people, who voted ‘Yes’ by a 61.6 per cent margin in a national postal survey earlier in the month.

Here's how the vote on the same-sex marriage bill went.
Here's how the vote on the same-sex marriage bill went.
Parliament

“We have seen the LGBTI community move from rejection to tolerance, tolerance to acceptance and now acceptance to embrace. We should be proud of that. I certainly am,” Senator Smith said in a final speech before the vote.

The bill's imminent passage comes after three days of debate in the Senate. 

While the Dean Smith bill already allows priests and other religious celebrants to refuse to wed same-sex couples on the basis of their faith, a number of senators wanted the protection extended to civil celebrants with a "conscientious objection".

Advocates of the various religious protections that were voted down in the amendment phase voiced their disappointment.

Senator Matt Canavan said he was “sceptical that we could trust the political process” to enshrine religious freedoms.

“Unfortunately I fear I have been proven true,” Senator Canavan said.

Senator Eric Abetz accused the Senate of “hubris” for voting down the amendments.

“The taste of defeat is always bitter,” the Tasmanian Liberal said. 

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and fellow marriage equality supporters after the vote.
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and fellow marriage equality supporters after the vote.
AAP

Extra religious exemptions all defeated in amendment stage 

The civil celebrants exemption from Senator Brandis was defeated 25 - 38 on Tuesday, while another amendment that would have extended a "right of any person" to "manifest his of her religion" was defeated 27 - 36. 

   

Already, one Nationals MP has blasted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for failing to protect religious protections. 

"Look, I think, in my view, there's been a complete lack of leadership," MP Andrew Broad told ABC Radio on Wednesday morning, before the final vote. 

Mr Broad said the government should have tried to build more religious exemptions into the bill from the beginning, rather than allowing the amendments to fail on the floor of the Senate. 

But Coalition frontbencher Senator Simon Birmingham, who voted against the changes, said Malcolm Turnbull had shown "very strong leadership" by enabling the bill despite some of his colleagues trying to "derail the process". 

Senator Birmingham said while his Coalition colleagues in the House of Representatives have the right to raise more amendments, the Smith bill now "ought to pass the [Lower] House in its current form". 

Labor voted as a bloc to defeat the changes to the original Dean Smith bill - which was developed in a cross-party committee- with the support of the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and independent senator Derryn Hinch.

"To proceed with this amendment would undermine the important principle that civil celebrants, as secular representatives of the state, should be bound by antidiscrimination legislation," Labor's Louise Pratt told the Senate in a closing argument. 

The Senate also blocked a move to create two definitions of marriage - one between a man and a woman and the other as between two people.

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