Bid dismissed … chief opposition whip Warren Entsch. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax
The Senate has voted down a bill to legalise same sex marriage.
The bill, co-sponsored by Labor Senators Trish Crossin, Carol Brown, Louise Pratt and Gavin Marshall was defeated by 41 votes to 26.
All coalition Senators, several Labor Senators – including Communications Minister Stephen Conroy – and Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan voted against the bill.
The nine Green Senators, independent Nick Xenophon and many Labor Senators including Senate leader Chris Evans and Finance Minister Penny Wong voted for the bill.
Liberal Senator Sue Boyce, who earlier today spoke in favour of the bill, was absent from the chamber, informally paired with Labor Senator and same sex marriage supporter Joe Ludwig.
While Labor Senators had a free vote on the issue, coalition Senators were bound to vote against it.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has all but dismissed Liberal MP Warren Entsch’s bid to put civil unions on the federal political agenda.
Mr Abbott said today that the dust should be allowed to settle after the same-sex marriage votes in parliament this week, adding that civil unions were more a matter for state parliaments.
Mr Entsch – the chief opposition whip – wants couples of the same gender formally recognised as partners and told ABC Radio today that he had the civil unions bill in his drawer, ready to go.
”I’ve indicated to Tony [Abbott] that we need to have a sit-down and have a chat and I’m looking forward to doing that at some time in the near future,” Mr Entsch said.
”I know that a lot of colleagues are very particularly keen in having a look at this.”
Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra today that he speaks to Mr Entsch ”all the time” on ”all sorts of issues”.
”I’ve known for months and months that he’s got a draft bill on this,” he said.
But while the Opposition Leader said he would continue to have a ”dialogue” with Mr Entsch, he appeared to pour cold water on the civil unions proposal.
”We really should let the dust settle on these parliamentary votes before we rush off and do something else,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Abbott added that the ”constitutional prerogatives of the Commonwealth” were in the field of marriage and that civil unions should be the prerogative of the state parliaments.
He also said that the Coalition would not change the policy it took to the 2010 election – which was not to change the Marriage Act.
”We are never going to be a party that says one thing before an election, and does the opposite afterwards,” Mr Abbott said.
But the Opposition Leader – who has not given Coalition MPs a conscience vote on gay marriage – said he accepted there were a range of views on the issue, including within the Coalition.
”I am a bit conflicted myself on this issue,” he said.
”I’ve had some lively and a times, heartfelt discussions with my sister Chris [who is a lesbian] on this subject.”
Earlier today, Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt urged Mr Entsch not to go ahead with plans to introduce a civil unions bill, arguing it is would be a step backwards.
”It will entrench two tiers of love,” he said.
Yesterday Labor MP Stephen Jones’ same sex marriage bill was voted down in the lower house, 98 votes to 42.
As Liberal senator Cory Bernardi’s views on same-sex marriage garner intentional attention, Mr Abbott confirmed that he personally found Senator Bernardi’s comments repugnant.
”Yes I do – and the fact that Cory is no longer a member of the shadow frontbench demonstrates that he did the wrong thing in every sense.”