After a long debate, the Same Sex Marriage Bill has passed the House of Representatives before parliament rises for the final time for 2017.
Over 100 Lower House MPs made speeches regarding the Bill, with only four Members voting against it.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said that the change in legislation was not a gift from the parliament to LGBTI Australians. “Equality is never a gift to be given,” Mr Shorten said.
“It is now a time to heal…at last, a time for marriage equality.”
The amendments to the Marriage Act change the words “man” and “woman” to “two people”. Some conservative members of parliament unsuccessfully sought to add a range of “religious freedom” protections, including the ability for Christian business owners to refuse service for same sex weddings.
Members of Australian Christians for Marriage Equality lobbied MPs against these amendments. Group member The Reverend Margaret Mayman, said that conservative Christian voices had sought to undermine the process.
“We believe there’s no basis, in either democratic principles or Christian faith, for introducing amendments that are arbitrary, divisive and unnecessary,” Rev. Mayman said on the group’s behalf.
Speaking in parliament, Government MP Andrew Hastie lamented that the defeat of the amendments had “effectively extinguished” the definition of marriage held by those who had voted no in the postal survey. Mr Hastie unsuccessfully attempted to move his own amendments that would allow parents to remove their children from school classes discussing same sex marriage.
Under the relevant legislation, ministers of religion may refuse to marry couples in accordance with their rites and ceremonies. Former Australian Attorney General Phillip Ruddock will undertake an inquiry into religious freedoms in Australia in early 2018.
The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 previously passed through the Senate on Wednesday, 29 November. The Bill was introduced by Senator Dean Smith. It is rare that a private member’s Bill should pass into law.
It will now head to the Governor General to gain royal assent.
Uniting Church Ministers are given legal permission to marry under the Rites of the Uniting Church in Australia, and these rites cannot be changed until the National Assembly Meeting in July 2018 at the earliest.
Speaking to ABC News, Paddington Uniting Church Minister Rev. Ben Gilmore pointed out, “We’re bound by the rites of our church” which currently hold that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor