NSW upper house backs marriage equality
SYDNEY: A motion has passed the NSW Legislative Council this afternoon in favour of marriage equality.
The final count was 22 in favour and 16 opposed.
The Private Members' Motion introduced by Greens MP Cate Faehrmann calls on the Federal Government to enact marriage equality.
"This is a great day. I congratulate my NSW Upper House colleagues for their leadership. Today we are on the right side of history," Faehrmann said.
"Denying anyone the right to marry who they love is ludicrous. It’s last century and it’s time our Federal Parliament caught up. The NSW Legislative Council, Australia's oldest House of Parliament, has shown great leadership in sending this clear message to the Commonwealth today."
"For the first time MPs from all major parties have joined together to vote in favour of marriage equality," she added.
"Yes, 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."
Labor MLC Penny Sharpe told gaynewsnetwork, "Today is another step forward towards equality for all couples. It is the result of the ongoing community campaign. It was pleasing that the yes vote was made up of MP's from Labor, Liberal, the Nationals and the Greens."
"The debate now turns to Canberra where Tony Abbott and Warren Truss should give their members a conscience vote just as Barry O'Farrell and Andrew Stoner did in NSW," she said.
The motion is similar to ones passed in both Tasmania and the ACT, but significantly in those two parliaments Liberals and Nationals voted en bloc against the motion.
Two Labor MPs, Luke Foley and Greg Donnelly voted against the motion with Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane absenting himself for the vote.
Australian Marriage Equality's Alex Greenwich, who was in the chamber for the vote, told gaynewsnetwork the result was "a victory for love and equality".
"This will send a message to those who support equality that we can change people's minds," Greenwich said.
"It's also significant that this is the first time conservatives have voted in favour of marriage equality in any parliament in Australia.
"It's noteworthy, also, this vote was passed in the same chamber Fred Nile sits in."
Greenwich called on federal opposition leader Tony Abbott to re-think his refusal to allow shadow cabinet a free vote on the issue.
"I suggest Tony Abbott read the speeches given by conservatives as to why they voted in favour of it," he said.
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby also welcomed the result.
“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,” co-convenor Justin Koonin said.
Co-convenor Lainie Arnold added, “NSW has made considerable reforms over the years advancing relationship recognition for same-sex couples, and this is another welcome endorsement.
“We hope this motion will urge more Federal MPs, particularly those in the Coalition, to come out in support of marriage equality.”
Rainbow Labor's Cathy Brown & Ashley Ubrihien issued a challenge to Tony Abbott following the successful vote.
"If a motion in support of marriage equality can pass one of the most conservative houses of Parliament in Australia, it sends a strong message to the Federal Parliament," they said.
"If Barry O'Farrell and Andrew Stoner can give their MPs a conscience vote, why won't Tony Abbott?"
Shelley Argent, national spokesperson for Parents Family and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) said NSW the passage of the motion was wonderful.
"Congratulations to the NSW Legislative Council for their forward thinking, their support for gays and lesbians and for recognising the need to pass marriage equality in Federal Parliament," she told gaynewsnetwork.
"Unlike the Queensland parliament who want to throw the gay and lesbian community into disarray by defunding Healthy Communitites and are even talking about repealing civil partnerships. For goodness sake, you don't take people's rights away!"
"We want Tony Abbott to allow a free vote among the shadow cabinet, that would be truee democracy. Some Labor will vote against it, some conservatives will vote for it, and it might not get up, but at least that would be fair," she added.
Federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie issued a statement follwing the vote, sying this was "a modest but significant step towards ending the legislated discrimination in the Marriage Act."
"But the Motion is also important in the way that it reflects the inevitability of same-sex couples one day being allowed to legally marry. That the Motion was successful is indicative of the widespread support in both the Parliament and the broader community for that change," he concluded.