March 17, 2016 at 7:17 pm EST | by Shannon Power
Australian lawmakers wrangle over same-sex marriage

Parliament House, Australia, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of the Australian Senate this week wrangled over the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples. (Photo by JPP; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s note: This article originally ran on the website of the Star Observer, a Sydney-based LGBT newspaper, on Thursday. The publication has allowed the Washington Blade to repost its coverage of the Australian same-sex marriage debate.

Labor Sen. Penny Wong has accused the Australian Greens of not voting for marriage equality “because the government wouldn’t let them.”

The opportunity to debate and vote on marriage equality in the Senate — which would then have lead to a vote in the House of Representatives — was knocked back twice today first by the Greens, then by the Labor and Liberal parties.

It has been a confusing week in the Senate where the main focus of debate was supposed to be on voting on Senate reforms — in which the Greens have sided with the Coalition in favor of reforms — but the issue of voting on marriage equality was brought up multiple times.

On Tuesday, the Greens accused the Labor Party and Liberal Democrat Sen. David Leyonhjelm of using the marriage equality issue as a delaying tactic to avoid voting on Senate reforms after Leyonhjelm tried to suspend standing orders to introduce the Greens’ own bill on marriage equality.

The Greens and the Coalition blocked the attempt to debate and fast-track a vote on marriage equality, preferring the issue to be debated during today’s allocated one-hour slot for private senators’ bills.

This morning Leyonhjelm again passed a motion to debate and vote on the same bill by the Greens — a debate that could have lasted days, delaying any vote on Senate reforms. However, the Greens again blocked the motion.

“The Greens say they oppose Malcolm Turnbull’s plebiscite on marriage equality but twice in three days have sided with Cory Bernardi and Eric Abetz to deny a parliamentary debate and vote,” said Wong, the Labor Party’s most senior gay politician.

“It has been an affront to Australians who care about marriage equality, an embarrassment to the Parliament, and a reminder that Christine Milne and Bob Brown have left shoes too big to fill by incumbent Greens senators.”

When the scheduled time came for the Senate to decide on whether to vote on the Greens’ bill, both Labor and Liberal Senators voted against it.

“The Labor Party sided with the Liberals to scuttle this opportunity. After years of debate in the parliament and the community we don’t need more discussion — we need a vote,” said Senator Robert Simms. the Green’s spokesperson on sexuality.

Some political observers suggested the Greens were not keen to vote on marriage equality because they aren’t confident they had the numbers to be successful, especially if Coalition MPs do not have a free vote on the matter.

However, advocates claim with 41 out of 76 senators publicly supporting marriage equality — enough for a majority vote in the Senate — it was time for those supporters to come together to make it a reality.

“It is no longer enough for politicians simply to support marriage equality, they must be prepared to vote for it and they must work together to move it forward,” Australian Marriage Equality National Director Rodney Croome said.

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