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Vote on gay marriage fails in first Australian state

Vote on gay marriage fails in first Australian state

New South Wales (NSW) has backed away from becoming the first Australian state to legalize same-sex marriage with Members of the state Legislative Council (MLCs) voting narrowly to defeat the measure.

MLCs voted 21 to 19 against the measure which had been put forward by a cross parliamentary working group on same-sex marriage which included both Government and Opposition lawmakers.

Even if the bill had passed in the Legislative Council it would likely have had a tougher time in the state House of Representatives where the ruling conservative Liberal National Coalition have a large majority.

The news comes on the heels of new polling that shows a majority of those in the state are supporters of reform, with only 35% agreeing that only opposite sex couples should be allowed to marry in an ABC Vote Compass online poll that involved 570,000 people nation wide – making it the largest sample size to date.

52.7% of NSW voters were in favor of same-sex marriage while 12.4% were neutral on the issue.

The results for NSW were roughly in line with the national average.

The polling data was welcomed by the Australian campaign for same-sex marriage.

‘Even though the question was about keeping marriage in its current form rather than about allowing same-sex couples to marry, the result still showed majority support for reform,’ Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said.

‘This indicates a high level of awareness among ordinary Australians about the discrimination inherent in current Australian marriage law.

‘Particularly pleasing is that 40% of Australians, including almost 60% of young Australians, strongly disagree that marriage should be restricted to heterosexual couples.’

However Croome said the narrow defeat of the bill showed the potential for what could be done with a bipartisan approach to reform.

‘The fact the NSW vote was so close and that it had unprecedented support from Coalition members is due to cross-party cooperation and a Coalition conscience vote,’ Croome said.

‘NSW has shown what the path forward at a national level should be.’

Croome also welcomed the news that a bill aiming to legalize same-sex marriage at a national level will be reintroduced into the Australian Parliament by the Greens party. ‘We welcome today’s announcement by Senator Sarah Hanson-Young that she intends to introduce a federal marriage equality bill and is seeking cross-party support,’ Croome said.

‘Our priority is to foster cross-party cooperation at a federal level through the establishment of a cross-party working group and a co-sponsored bill.

‘We are also working towards a Coalition conscience vote to ensure the Bill has the best chance of success.’

The Australian Capital Territory became the first Australian jurisdiction to pass a law allowing same-sex couples to marry in October but that law will soon be the subject of a High Court challenge.

Croome said NSW was likely to revisit the issue following the High Court’s decision.