Marriage voted down as Bernardi resigns over bestiality comments
Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has resigned as parliamentary secretary to Coalition Leader Tony Abbott after coming under fire from within his own party as well by marriage equality advocates for claiming same-sex marriage laws would lead to bestiality.
The announcement came as the Federal Parliament's lower house voted against a marriage equality bill introduced by Labor MP Stephen Jones with 98 MPs opposing and only 42 MPs in support.
During debate on a marriage equality bill in the Senate last night, Bernardi had claimed demands by same-sex marriage advocates would demands to legalise bestiality and polygamy.
“It is another chip in the fabric of our social mores,” he said. “The time has come to ask, when will it end? If we are prepared to redefine marriage ... what is the next step?”
“The next step ... is having three people that love each other should be able to enter into a permanent union endorsed by society, or four people. There are even some creepy people out there, who say that it’s OK to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals. Will that be a future step?”
He then later backed up his comments on ABC Radio in Adelaide this morning.
Abbott made the announcement shortly after midday today following a phone conversation with the South Australian senator.
At a press conference in Canberra, Abbott said he acted as Bernardi’s comments had no place in a civil debate and he wanted to a lead a “strong and disciplined” team.
“They are views that I don’t share and views that many would find repugnant,” Abbott said.
“We have to conduct this debate in a civil way ... I don’t think Senator Bernardi’s contribution last night added anything to that.”
Abbott however said Bernardi’s actions would not make him reconsider his decision not to allow a conscience vote on equal marriage laws.
“Everyone knows the position of the Coalition on the issue. It is the position we took before the last election.
“Nevertheless, I am also determined the Coalition will also maintain its proud record of non-discrimination,” Abbott said.
“We do not discriminate against minority groups. We do not want them to feel like strangers in their own country.”
Bernardi will now be replaced by Arthur Sinodinis in his role as parliamentary secretary to Abbott and by Jamie Briggs as parliamentary secretary for the families portfolio.
Earlier, Deputy PM Wayne Swan had called for Bernardi to be sacked while Liberal heavyweights like Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull slammed and then distanced themselves from the provocative comments.
“I can only say that that is the worst sort of slippery slope argument,” Turnbull told Sky News.
“It’s hysterical, it’s alarmist, it’s offensive, and it does not represent the mainstream view of Australian people, let alone the Liberal Party’s.
“So, I totally disassociate myself from those remarks.”
Hockey said the debate on marriage equality needed to be “measured and sensitive”.
“People do have strong views, they’re entitled to strong views,” Hockey told ABC News 24. “But frankly, hysterics don’t help.”
A vote will be held today on the marriage equality bill introduced by Labor senators Louise Pratt, Trish Crossin, Gavin Marshall and Carol Brown and it is likely to be defeated with only 31 or 32 senators in the 76-seat upper house believed to be in support of the reform.
The earlier defeat by a wide margin of Jones's bill in the lower house was expected by marriage equality advocates due to a lack of a Coalition conscience vote.
Speaking in support of the bill in front of the Senate today, Labor’s openly gay senator Penny Wong, said inclusivity did not weaken institutions.
“We are normal and we are here,” she said. “It is time to recognise this.
“You do not need to legitimise your relationship by undermining mine.”
Pratt meanwhile said reform would be inevitable in coming months and years even if her bill was voted down.
“There is a good chance that we will not win the votes, but we are winning the argument,” she said.