As Australia’s Senate debates marriage equality legislation, with hopes of passing by Christmas, same-sex marriage opponents are seeing their amendments meant to water down the bill voted down in rapid succession.
The amendments would have added far-reaching exemptions into the bill, including the right for all celebrants to refuse to solemnise gay weddings on religious or conscientious grounds and legal protections for people who don’t believe in same-sex marriage or think gay relationships are wrong.
Their decisive defeat is a considerable victory for the “yes” campaign and LGBTI advocates, who feared opponents of same-sex marriage would try and insert clauses into the bill that would roll back anti-discrimination law.
The first amendment debated by the Senate would have effectively allowed civil celebrants to refuse to marry same-sex couples based on their religious or conscientious beliefs. It was defeated 42-24.
The second would have legislated widespread legal freedom of speech protections for people who hold various beliefs, including those against same-sex marriage but also against same-sex parenting and relationships, as well as an anti-detriment clause and a legislated parental right to pull children out of classes that mention the relevant beliefs. It went down 44-20 after a few hours of debate.
A further amendment relating to defence force chaplains was also defeated, as were amendments in relation to registered charities and religious organisations, with similar margins.
After the five amendments from the conservative bloc were defeated, the Senate also voted down two amendments from Brandis and resources minister Matthew Canavan.
The first, defeated 36-27, would have inserted a line about religious freedom taken from the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights into the bill, and the second, defeated 38-25, would have extended a right to civil celebrants to refuse to solemnise gay weddings.
BuzzFeed News understands that supporters of the legislation are confident that very few, if any, amendments will get up and the Smith bill will pass the Senate largely unamended.