On Sept. 19 the House of Representatives voted on a proposal by backbencher Stephen Jones, of the Australian Labor Party, the party currently in power at the federal level, to legalize same-sex “marriage.”
The Labor Party allowed a free vote on the proposal, while the coalition of opposition parties, led by Tony Abbott, held to their promise of voting against any attempt to introduce same-sex “marriage.”
The vote was 42 in favour of legalization and 98 against. Both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott voted against the bill.
"The overwhelming vote in the House of Representatives in favour of marriage between a man and a woman is greatly welcomed," says Chris Meney, director of the Archdiocese of Sydney's Life, Marriage and Family Centre. "It is also a vote affirming the truth of how marriage has always been understood," he commented in a news story published on the Web site of the Archdiocese of Sydney.
"Given the broad consultation over a significant period and the number of bills which have been introduced on this issue it is to be hoped our elected representatives will now be free to devote the necessary time to other issues which are of importance to all Australians," Meney commented.
The following day another vote on same-sex marriage was held in the Australian Senate, and again it was overwhelmingly defeated, by 41 to 26.
Among those speaking against the Senate initiative was Labor senator John Hogg, who is the President of the Senate. As a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation noted, he rarely speaks during debates on legislation, but he did speak out on this issue.
"I have a deep-seated belief that marriage is between a man and a woman exclusively," he said.
"I utterly reject the offensive language of some of those supporting the bill that people who share my views are discriminatory or homophobic,” he added.
"This is absolutely nonsense of the first order and is a desperate resort to try and isolate those who don't share their views," the Senate president said.
The votes followed what Paul Kelly, political commentator for the Australian newspaper, called a two year intense campaign by the Green Party, half the Labor Party, the gay lobby and progressive media in favour of same-sex “marriage.”
“Australia is now consigned to a lengthy culture war over same-sex marriage,” he added in his Sept. 22 commentary.
Despite the two votes in federal parliament the debate on same-sex “marriage” in Australia is far from over, with the focus turning to the state level.
The lower house of parliament in Tasmania has already voted in favour of same-sex “marriage” and this week it will be voted on by the upper house. The outcome of the vote is uncertain, given that the majority of the members of the upper house are independents.
Proponents of same-sex “marriage” have also said they will introduce initiatives in the state parliaments of South Australia and New South Wales.
The situation is further complicated by a debate over the constitutionality of state vs. federal laws regarding marriage. Commentators agree that any state law allowing same-sex “marriage” will be challenged in the High Court of Australia.
There are also concerns that any approval of same-sex “marriage” will create a church-state conflict.
“Changing the Marriage Act would, in practice, compel Catholics and other faith communities to recognise and accept same-sex marriage in their schools, charities, social welfare, health care and adoption services,” warned Sydney’s Cardinal George Pell in a submission he made in a Senate committee inquiry on the issue of same-sex “marriage.”