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News: World

Thu 18 Nov, 2010
By Sam Bristowe

What we set out to do when we moved this motion was to take the national debate to the next level and we have achieved that

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Australia MPs to canvass voters on gay marriage

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Australian lawmakers agreed to canvass public opinion on gay marriage Thursday, in a narrowly won motion which the minority Greens party called an "important step" towards making same-sex unions legal.

Parliament voted 73-72 for MPs to gauge feelings among voters about gay weddings, which are currently banned under Australian law and opposed by both major parties.
The left-wing Greens, a key partner in Prime Minister Julia Gillard's minority coalition government, want a conscience vote on the issue, arguing there is widespread public support for a change to marriage laws.

Gillard and her Labor party oppose gay unions, but a number of her MPs broke ranks to vote in favour of Greens MP Adam Bandt's motion for community consultations Thursday.

Bandt became the first Greens candidate to win a lower-house seat at elections in August, and his motion passed by one vote after being backed by other key minority MPs Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor.

"This is an important step in reforming the law," Bandt said. "What we set out to do when we moved this motion was to take the national debate to the next level and we have achieved that."

Meanwhile Australian-born actress Portia De Rossi, the wife of US comedian and chat-show host Ellen DeGeneres, criticised Gillard's opposition to same-sex weddings.

"I always thought Australia would pass this equal rights law long before America would," De Rossi told ABC radio. "I'm a little bit disappointed with the new prime minister. I'm hoping that Australia will be a leader on this."
Gillard said she had brought forward the Labor party's national policy conference by a year to 2011 to debate its gay marriage position, but repeated that she believed marriage should be between a man and a woman.

"I do believe that in our society, with our heritage, with our traditions, with our history, that marriage has a special place and special definition, so I've been very clear about that," she told public broadcaster ABC.

"But I will also be saying to party members at our national conference that it is the right forum to be debating ideas about this topic and more broadly."

Source: AFP


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