Members of Australia’s ruling party on Monday blocked efforts to allow a conscience vote in the country’s parliament on whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported only seven members of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal Party-led coalition voted in favor of allowing lawmakers to vote on the issue. The Associated Press said a bill that would require voters to take part in a plebiscite on the issue will be introduced in the Australian Senate later this week.
Turnbull last October introduced a non-binding plebiscite bill after his coalition narrowly won re-election.
Members of the opposition Labor Party blocked the measure. Same-sex marriage advocates remain opposed to a postal plebiscite that remains under consideration.
“It’s very disappointing that the Liberal Party has failed to do the right thing by the Australian people, but there is still a way forward,” said Rodney Croome, a long-time advocate for marriage rights for same-sex couples in Australia. “We urge Liberals who support marriage equality to table marriage equality legislation and cross the floor to vote for it.”
“Today’s decision has let down the millions of Australians who support marriage equality and will only inspire us to push harder for this vital reform,” he added in a statement.
Sydney City Councilmember Christine Forster, who is the lesbian sister of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, told the Washington Blade in an email it is “extremely disappointing that a free vote won’t go ahead at the earliest opportunity.” Sally Goldner, a transgender and bisexual advocate in the city of Melbourne, agreed.
“[It] now puts pressure on the ‘small-l Liberal seven’ to bring on a private members bill,” Goldner told the Blade. “Otherwise 2017 becomes another year of marriage inequality.”
‘Australia is a joke right now’
The Australian Parliament in 2004 approved a nationwide law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Lawmakers have introduced more than 20 bills to amend the country’s Marriage Act to allow gays and lesbians to marry. Forster on Monday noted to the Blade that marriage rights for same-sex couples have “broad community support and would do nothing more than bring us into line with the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and other countries” in which “same-sex marriage is legal and has had absolutely no detrimental impact.”
Elias Jahshan, the former editor of the Star Observer, a Sydney-based LGBT and intersex newspaper who now lives in London, on Monday described the parliamentarians who won’t allow a marriage vote in Parliament as “cowards.”
“Instead, they prefer to delay it with a goddammed plebiscite and/or postal vote that are not even legally binding,” he wrote on Facebook. “They actively want to waste more of our time and tax funds.”
“Fucking tired of having our relationships treated like a political football when there are so many other important issues the country needs to address and resolve,” added Jahshan. “Get. It. Done. Australia is a joke right now.”