Australian lawmakers have rejected legislation that would have permitted gay marriage with the Australian House of Representatives voting against the bill by an overwhelming 98-42.
The vote, which took place Wednesday, was the first of four bills aiming to remove the ban on same-sex marriage in Australia. On the same day the bill was thrown out by the Aussie Parliament, a separate bill concerning gay marriage in Australia was being debated in the country’s Senate.
The failure of the bill might be seen as unusual, given that polls show the majority of Australians support gay marriage. However, the conservative opposition coalition and many in the ruling center-left Labor Party are against same-sex marriages. Opponents to gay marriage include Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Speaking after the vote, senior government minister Anthony Albanese told reporters:
“I think at some future time our Parliament will catch up with community opinion, just as it has on other issues. When marriage equality occurs, people will wonder what the fuss was about.”
Before Wednesday’s vote, Prime Minister Gillard allowed members of her party to make a “conscience vote” on the bill; this allowed lawmakers to vote according to their personal beliefs, meaning they would not be expelled for going against the party line. Opposition leader Tony Abbott did not afford members of his Liberal Party the same luxury.
Finance Minister Penny Wong, who is gay, admitted in the build-up to Wednesday’s vote that the bill was unlikely to pass, though he remained a vocal supporter of the legislation. Speaking to lawmakers, Wong said:
“If you subscribe to the principal of equality, as I’m sure most in the chamber would, then substitute ‘same sex’ for ‘race’ in this debate and see if it changes your view. Just imagine if we told Australians today that they could not marry the person they love because of the color of their skin.”