Greens fight for gay marriages to be legal on Aussie soil

THE legalisation of same-sex marriage by New Zealand marriage has failed to change the minds of Australia's political leaders.

New Zealand became the 13th country to legalise same-sex marriage after its Parliament passed the Marriage Amendment Bill by a vote of 77-44.

It came after a similar bill was overwhelmingly rejected by Australia's lower house MPs last year.

The passage of that bill was not helped by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's refusal to allow Coalition MPs to exercise a conscience vote.

While the outcome would likely have been the same, the vote would have been much closer.

Mr Abbott, whose sister is in a lesbian relationship, said the matter had been resolved in Australia at least for the life of this Parliament.

"We had a parliamentary vote on this just a few months ago and it was a fairly decisive rejection," Mr Abbott said.

"Now that was what this Parliament has done. Who knows whether this might come up again? If it does it will be a matter for future parliaments to deal with but my own position on that particular question is pretty well known. It's the same position as Julia Gillard's, as John Howard's, as Kevin Rudd's."

Prime Minister Gillard told reporters in Canberra she had not been swayed by the New Zealand vote.

But she confirmed she would again allow a conscience vote on any future marriage equality bills, and she called on Mr Abbott to follow the lead of his conservative colleague in New Zealand, Prime Minister John Keys, and do the same.

"For those that advocate change in our marriage laws, what we need to see is a conscience vote by everyone in Parliament. I think that's the right thing to do, to give people that conscience vote," Ms Gillard said.

"And I also think in terms of a Parliament, thinking about change, dealing with change, it is absolutely impossible to see change ever succeeding unless every Parliamentarian gets a conscience vote. So that is something for the Leader of the Opposition to think about and to deal with."

But Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, an outspoken advocate for gay rights, signalled her intention to introduce legalisation designed to recognise same-sex marriages from overseas in Australia

The new bill, called the Marriage Act Amendment (Recognition of Foreign Marriages for Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2013, is separate from the Greens' existing marriage equality bills in the Senate and House of Representatives.

"Equality is now less than three hours away, but the sad thing is that gay and lesbian Australians will have to leave their marriage at the customs gate," Senator Hanson-Young said.

"That is why I'm announcing today that I'll be introducing a bill to the Senate that would remove the blanket ban on international same-sex marriages being recognised here in Australia."

Senator Hanson-Young congratulated New Zealand on achieving an "historic political step", and predicted Australia would miss out on millions of wedding industry dollars.

The national director of Australian Marriage Equality Rodney Croome described the Kiwi vote as a "game changer".

Meanwhile, one New Zealand MP's speech has become a global internet sensation.

Pakuranga National MP Maurice Williamson's speech in the debate, in which he described "the most enormous big gay rainbow" across his electorate on Wednesday morning, was hailed by Gawker as "a speech for the ages".

After warming up the crowd with some jokes about a Catholic priest who chided Mr Williamson for "supporting an unnatural act" despite having "taken an oath of celibacy" himself, and the unlikelihood that he would "burn in the fires of hell for eternity" given his "body weight and humidity", the lawmaker got down to brass tacks, Gawker's Neetzan Zimmerman wrote, before going on to quote more from Mr Williamson's speech.

The Huffington Post also commended Mr Williamson's "epic" speech, calling his comments "jovial, though nonetheless poignant".


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