John Madigan

SENATOR John Madigan’s preliminary steps towards a referendum to ban same-sex marriage in Australia has been struck down, just days after a similar referendum in Croatia.

Madigan (pictured), from the Democratic Labor Party, had proposed an inquiry into a possible referendum to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, calling for recommendations from the committee by March 25.

His motion stated: “a referendum on an amendment to the Constitution confirming that all powers pertaining to making laws for marriage rest with the Commonwealth and that those powers may only be used to confirm marriage to be the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.

The proposed referendum would have effectively rendered future same-sex marriage legislations unconstitutional and prevent states and territories from legislating on it.

However, on Monday Coalition and Greens federal parliamentarians voted Madigan’s motion down. Labor voted in favour.

Speaking to the Star Observer before the motion was dismissed, Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convener Anna Brown was critical of the motion.

“It calls to entrench discrimination and limit marriage equality reform,” she said.

Brown added that the process itself would have encouraged harmful public discourse.

“Referenda on marriage equality have been expensive, lengthy processes that serve to perpetuate and legitimise hate speech against LGBTI people, and increase anxiety and depression in already-vulnerable people,” she said.

The recent referendum on the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Croatia sparked vehement anti-LGBTI sentiment across the European nation. However it was approved by voters, with 66 per cent in favour despite the voter turnout of 37 per cent – the lowest for a major election in Croatia’s 20 years of democracy.

While some European Union officials criticised the referendum, they called same-sex marriage a “family issue” and that legislating it was the domain of individual member states, of which Croatia is one.

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome echoed Brown’s statements.

“The recent marriage equality referendum in Croatia became a platform for hatred and violence,” he said.

“Fundamental human rights should not be decided by a show of hands.”

The Croatian vote has prompted proposed changes to the country’s referenda process, requiring a minimum voter turnout for them to be successful. Despite the ban, the country may still consider a civil union-like scheme as soon as January.

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