The NSW Legislative Council has passed a motion, in a vote of 22 to 16, urging federal parliamentarians to legalise same-sex marriage – making it only the second Australian state to do so.
The vote was also the first time that Coalition MPs had been allowed to vote on the issue in Australia. The motion passed with the support of MLCs from all major parties.
Amendments by Labor MLC Greg Donnelly and the Christian Democrats’ Reverend Fred Nile seeking to alter the motion to oppose marriage equality were defeated 26 – 13 and 24 – 14 respectively.
Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convenor Alex Greenwich tweeted from Parliament that it was an “amazing feeling to have my state parliament give my marriage respect and dignity”.
Tasmania’s Parliament was the first to pass such a motion in September last year and the NSW motion used an identical form of words.
However, Coalition MPs were not allowed to vote for the Tasmanian motion, which passed with the support of Labor and the Greens alone.
Following the vote, the motion’s author, Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann, said the NSW Upper House had shown real leadership on the issue.
“Today we are on the right side of history,” Faehrmann said.
“For the first time, MPs from all major parties have joined together to vote in favour of marriage equality. This was a symbolic motion, but it is immensely significant. Today we have given voice to the majority of NSW citizens who don’t want our marriage laws to discriminate.
“Every single step towards full equality is to be welcomed and congratulated enthusiastically. I want to thank all of my colleagues who supported the motion, and acknowledge that for many, this was a very difficult motion to contend with.
“In the end, the arguments against marriage equality are based on personal and religious beliefs that have no place in our civil marriage laws. It’s time for full equality and the NSW Upper House has made that clear.”
Greenwich thanked Premier Barry O’Farrell on behalf of AME for allowing the conscience vote for Coalition MPs.
“Today’s vote increases pressure on [Opposition leader] Tony Abbott to allow a conscience vote for the growing number of federal Coalition MPs who also support this issue,” Greenwich said.
“The motion says to all federal parliamentarians that this is an important issue Australians want resolved.”
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) welcomed the vote.
“Marriage equality is a matter of fairness, and we welcome the NSW Legislative Council sending a powerful message to the Commonwealth Parliament that it is time to eliminate unjust discrimination against people on the basis of whom they love,” GLRL co-convenor Justin Koonin said.
“NSW has made considerable reforms over the years advancing relationship recognition for same-sex couples, and this is another welcome endorsement,” GLRL co-convenor Lainie Arnold said.
“We hope this motion will urge more federal MPs, particularly those in the Coalition, to come out in support of marriage equality.”