(Australian Associated Press)
Applause and tearful embraces filled the Senate after a landmark bill to legalise same-sex marriage sailed through the upper house.
Liberal Dean Smith’s largely unamended private bill was passed on Wednesday with senators voting 43-12 in favour of changing the Marriage Act.
“In a world where there are more tensions between people, our country has offered a loving embrace to its own,” an emotional Senator Smith said ahead of the vote.
“A few brief moments of joy is what our country has ached for because we know it will result in a lifetime of joy for so many others.”
Labor Senate leader Penny Wong said the bill’s passage was a historic moment.
“It says to so many Australians, this parliament, this country, accepts you for who you are,” she said.
“Your love is not lesser, and nor are you. It says you’re one of us.”
Attorney-General George Brandis, who made a passionate speech during the debate, said it was a proud moment for democracy.
“We should rejoice in what the Australian people have achieved this year,” he said.
The bill now goes to the lower house for a debate likely to start on Monday, and a vote before the end of the week.
If any amendments are added in the House of Representatives, the bill will have return to the Senate for approval.
Labor senator Louise Pratt praised the activist movement which had led to legislative change.
“Our relationships have existed for a long time. Our families have existed for a long time. Our love is true. Our children are cherished. Our families are precious. It is time that we were equal,” Senator Pratt said.
But cabinet minister Matt Canavan said he could not support a bill which compromised human rights after amendments, including some to protect religious freedoms, were rejected..
“I think the failure to fully protect celebrants who have a conscientious or may have a conscientious or non-religious objection to solemnising a same-sex marriage is a missed opportunity for our parliament to unify,” he said.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott said he expected similar amendments which were defeated in the Senate to be moved in the lower house.
“It’s disappointing the government hasn’t done more to try to ensure that freedom of religion isn’t protected at the same time as same-sex marriage is passed,” Mr Abbott told Sydney radio station 2GB.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said discriminatory laws had been sent to the dustbin of history.
“I am so proud of this parliament and today I am so proud of my country,” he said.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson abstained from the final vote, as did Liberal James McGrath and Nationals Bridget McKenzie.
Earlier, Nationals MPs Andrew Broad and George Christensen accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of ignoring conservatives during the debate.
“I think, in my view, there’s been a complete lack of leadership,” Mr Broad said.