Australian House votes against gay marriage

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The Australian House of Representatives has voted 98-42 against a bill to lift the country’s ban against same-sex marriage. The vote took place on Sept. 19, the same day the Australian Senate was to debate the bill.

Polls show that a majority of Australians support legalizing same-sex marriage, but the Liberal Party and many in the Labor Party, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, oppose equality.

Currently Australian law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Gillard allowed Labor members a “conscience vote” on the bill so that they could vote based on their personal beliefs rather than the party line.

Openly gay Finance Minister Penny Wong tried to convince those lawmakers to support gay marriage, saying in a House speech, “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,” she said. “Just imagine if we told Australians today that they could not marry the person they love because of the color of their skin.”

Another lawmaker, Cory Bernardi, caused controversy when he likened homosexuality to bestiality. “There are even some creepy people out there, who say it’s OK to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals. Will that be a future step?”

While there was a loss on gay marriage at the federal level, some states in Australia have moved to recognize gay marriage. Tasmania has passed a marriage equality bill and campaigns are moving forward in South Australia, the ACT and New South Wales.