The people of Australia won’t be voting on marriage equality anytime soon.
A bill that would have allowed a plebiscite, or a national ballot, on the issue was defeated Monday in Parliament. The vote was 33-29. The country’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, had urged lawmakers to pass it.
If it had passed, the bill would have allowed Australians to vote in February on whether the country’s Marriage Act should be altered to allow same-sex marriage.
George Brandis told opponents of the bill Monday to “stop playing politics with gay people’s lives” and “let us have the plebiscite that would deliver marriage equality in Australia in less than 100 days,” reports The New York Times.
However, the plebiscite has not been supported by all LGBT activists. Dean Smith, an out gay senator, has argued that the right to marry be should determined by lawmakers. This route would be far less expensive — a campaign on a plebiscite could cost up to $138 million — and it would avoid a “no” campaign that might be psychologically damaging to LGBT people.
The Labor Party’s leader, Bill Shorten, called a public vote a “platform for prejudice and a megaphone for hate speech.” He worried it might cost lives, as the messaging may lead to an increased rate of teen suicide.
According to a recent poll, around 70 percent of Australians support same-sex marriage.
With the long-debated bill defeated, the path Australia might take to marriage equality is not clear.
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