Emotions ran high during debate on the bill, which lasted two hours before coming to a vote.
NSW Labor MP Helen Westwood, herself in a same-sex relationship, was moved to tears reading aloud a hate letter she received from a Sydney lawyer.
“Marriage is not a game between poofters and lesbian sluts… Wake up woman to the call of the majority who would rather see all queers burned at the stake, not married,” the letter read.
Westwood cited the letter as evidence of the kind of prejudice perpetuated by legal discrimination around marriage. She also acknowledged the concerns of transgender and intersex excluded by the bill, but wanted to support it as an “interim step to marriage equality”.
While MPs such as Labor’s Ernest Wong openly opposed the notion of marriage between two people of the same sex, many couched their opposition in terms of constitutionality.
Advocates for the bill were disappointed in the outcome, but believe the close result indicates a serious shift in opinion on the issue.
“Although we’re disappointed we didn’t get it up this time, we’re encouraged by the closeness of it,” said LGBTI advocate and NSW lower house member for Sydney Alex Greenwich.