Mark DreyfusTHE Australian Labor Party sparked confusion on Monday after they voted in favour of a motion investigating a referendum on marriage equality, but have since clarified their position in opposition to such a referendum.

The motion came from Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan and proposed a referendum to define marriage as between a man and a woman and to confirm marriage as solely the legislative domain of the federal parliament.

Despite Labor’s support, the motion failed with the opposition of the Coalition and the Greens.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young expressed surprise at Labor’s vote of support during the parliamentary session, stating:

“Can I just clarify that the Labor Party just voted with Senator Madigan on that motion? That is what I would like clarification about.”

When she received clarification that they did indeed vote in favour, Hanson-Young said simply: “Wow!”

In a statement to the Star Observer on Tuesday in response to a request for clarification of Labor’s position on a marriage referendum, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the vote was linked to a party policy around parliamentary procedure.

“As a matter of Senate practice, while in opposition Labor supports non-government referrals to senate committees. Supporting the use of senate processes by non-government senators does not indicate support by Labor for the policy in that referral,” he said.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that Labor does not support any measures to investigate or develop a referendum for amendment of the constitution in relation to marriage laws. Labor opposes a referendum on same-sex marriage.”

A referendum on marriage is widely opposed by marriage equality advocates.

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