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Australia has a roughly 20-year history of taking its sweet time thinking about marriage equality and then failing to pass any legislation in favor of it. (Not that we’re criticizing — the American legislature did no better.) It just makes us all the more surprised to hear that yesterday the Australian Senate passed a same-sex marriage bill, and the House of Representatives is expected to easily pass it next week, fulfilling Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s promise to pass such legislation before Christmas.
On November 14, the island continent announced the results of a non-binding postal vote in which roughly 78.5% of voters participated. Approximately 61.6% of Australian voters voted in favor of it.
The Senate bill passed in a 43 to 12 vote (with 17 not voting) after senators from various political parties voted down amendments meant to carve out religious exemptions allowing discrimination against same-sex couples. The Senate bill contains no such amendments, however it’s possible that the House or a future bill sometime could try and add such amendments. It’s unclear how successful such an attempt would be.
Senator Dean Smith, who authored the Senate’s marriage equality bill, said:
The lack of substantive amendments indicates we got the balance correct. The bill expresses a faith in the current architecture of Australia’s religious protections. The architecture is precise.
It has allowed a multitude of faiths to thrive and that will not change. The bill is the fulfillment of the people’s will to extend equality to all citizens and it takes away no religious or civil right from anyone. To those who have opposed this bill, I say there is enormous goodwill to ensure this is not triumph of one group over another.
Unlike so much of what characterizes modern politics, this is not triumph of one politician over another or even one party over another. Instead, it has restored faith in our Parliament and in this Senate.
Featured image by Marilyn Nieves via iStock