The Australian government’s proposed 2017 plebiscite on same-sex marriage has been defeated in Parliament’s upper house.
The Senate vote to block the bill legislating for the marriage equality plebiscite had been expected, following Labor last month announcing its opposition to holding it.
In the 33 to 29 vote against the bill, Labor joined senators from the Greens, the Nick Xenaphon group and Derryn Hinch to deny its passage.
Voting in favour of the plebiscite, Coalition senators were supported by Pauline Hanson and her fellow One Nation members, as well as independent Jacqui Lambi and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm.
Those who argued against holding a public vote on same-sex marriage, including may high profile gay and lesbian advocates, cited fears that the campaigns for and against would prove overtly divisive. In particular, it was argued, a plebiscite would provide a forum for hate against the gay community which in turn would result in harful emotional effects among the LGBTI community, with youth and children of gay parents particularly at risk.
The cost of the public vote, estimated at over $160 million, when legalising gay marriage only requires a simple vote and act of parliament, was also cited by critics as a reason to reject the plebiscite.
The Coalition government, who proposed the plebiscite, argued it was the quickest way to acheive marriage equality in Australia.
The Labor opposition says if elected to government they will put marriage equality to a simple vote in parliament.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Coalition government may yet move for just such a vote in the wake of the defeat of the plebiscite route.