Parliament overwhelmingly voted to introduce same-sex marriage in a historic vote on Thursday that united Liberal, Labor, and crossbench MPs in unprecedented jubilant celebration on the chamber floor.
But four rebel MPs defied the 61.8 per cent of Australians who voted yes in the gay marriage postal vote last month to stand against the bill as it passed the House of Representatives.
The final division showed one side of the chamber packed with supportive MPs with only four lonely holdouts – Bob Katter, Keith Pitt, Russell Broadbent, and David Littleproud – sitting on the other side.
Four rebel MPs defied the 61.8 per cent of Australians who voted yes in the gay marriage postal vote last month to stand against the bill as it passed the House of Representatives
David Littleproud (L) followed his no-voting electorate, as did Mr Katter (R) who would have voted no anyway
Additionally, former prime minister and prominent SSM opponent Tony Abbott was absent from the chamber as he abstained from the votes after debating fiercely for rejected amendments.
This was despite previous pledges to respect the will of the people and 75 per cent of his electorate of Warringah voting yes in the postal vote – one of the highest in the country.
Maverick North Queensland MP Mr Katter is well known for his bluster, outrageous campaign ads, and multiple bizarre speeches against homosexuality, but few could pick the others out of a lineup.
Mr Pitt said his opposition was not to the survey result but the text of the bill and its lack of amendments protecting the rights of no voters to discriminate against LGBTQI people on religious grounds.
‘I think it’s critical that the four million Australians who did vote no not only are represented in this place but have their views protected in this Bill,’ he told the Bundaberg NewsMail.
The final division showed one side of the chamber packed with supportive MPs with only four lonely holdouts – Bob Katter and Russell Broadbent (pictured far left), Keith Pitt, and David Littleproud – sitting on the other side
Keith Pitt (L) and Russell Broadbent (R) voted against their ‘yes’ electorates due to their personal religious views
Additionally, former prime minister and prominent SSM opponent Tony Abbott was absent from the chamber as he abstained from the votes after debating fiercely for rejected amendments
The 48-year-old earlier said his electorate of Hinkler in central Queensland – which voted yes by 50.7 per cent – first elected him in 2013 knowing his views on the issue and ‘I am a man of my word’ and would not betray them.
‘The people who are calling on me to vote in favour of same-sex marriage, are the very same people who would scream blue murder if I broke any other election commitment,’ he said on his website.
‘Many of those who value the traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and woman are not willing to share their views publicly for fear of being vilified.
‘They are often labelled as being ‘out of touch, homophobic, backwards, dinosaurs’ by people who promote tolerance, love and freedom of choice. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy?’
Mr Broadbent, MP for McMillan, east of Melbourne, said despite 62.7 per cent of his constituents voting yes he was not prepared to vote for something he wasn’t in favour of.
‘I will not be obstructionist, I respect the will of the Australian people, but at the same time I have a long held standing position on this, and everyone knows where I stand,’ he told ABC radio.
After the chamber divided for the final vote, only a few like Mr Katter and Mr Broadbest (bottom left) remained on the no side
Mr Katter provoked heckling from the public gallery while pushing for amendments to the same-sex marriage bill ahead of the vote on Thursday, doubling down on comments he made on Wednesday night by saying: ‘I refuse to say the word g-a-y’
The 66-year-old said he also represented those who voted no and would either vote no or abstain – but when it came to a vote ended up opposing the bill.
However, he vowed not to try to wind back anti-discrimination laws in amendments to the bill and was not surprised by the survey outcome because: ‘When a proposition of equality and fairness is put forward it’s in Australian people’s DNA to support it’.
Mr Littleproud had cover for his decision to vote no as 56.1 per cent of his electorate of Maranoa, in southwest Queensland, agreed with his personal position in the postal vote.
‘I’m comfortable and was always going to respect the views of the Maranoa. They’ve given me a clear direction and it’s my job to respect their views,’ he told the Warwick Daily News.
‘I have said I didn’t support same sex marriage but had the vote come back as a yes then I would have voted yes.
‘Regardless of the result, we stick together in the bush. If there’s a flood or fire – no matter your background or lifestyle, we’re all standing side-by-side filling sandbags or volunteering to help the whole community.’
The bill, which passed the Senate in late November, will now go to Governor-General Peter Cosgrove for royal assent. It will become law in days
Liberal MP Warren Entsch hugs Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives
Mr Katter’s seat of Kennedy also backed up his position, with 53.3 per cent voting no, and there was little chance he’d do anything but support that given his frequent public comments.
He provoked heckling from the public gallery while pushing for amendments to the same-sex marriage bill ahead of the vote on Thursday, doubling down on comments he made on Wednesday night by saying: ‘I refuse to say the word g-a-y’.
‘LBGTs [sic] or whatever the hell the words are, whatever it is,’ he said, causing laughter to erupt in the chamber.
‘No, I seriously have no idea what it is,’ the member for Kennedy responded, ‘and I’m not going to spend any time finding out.’
‘They took the word “gay” off us, now they’re taking the word “marriage” off us, and when we ask for religious freedoms… not one of them in this place stood up.
The prime minister had promised to pass the reform into law by Christmas and called on lawmakers to heed the ‘overwhelming’ survey result
Ministers erupted in celebration as the result was handed down, with many shedding tears of joy and embracing
Ministers were unable to contain their joy after the decision was handed down to legalise same-sex marriage
Mr Katter was condemned for his earlier comments describing gay people as murderers responsible for AIDS and for saying boys are being forced to wear dresses.
‘You talk about equality. They wanted equality in the giving of blood,’ Mr Katter told the House of Representatives.
‘They said, “We as homosexuals have a right to give blood,” so they did, and I think 72 children were injected with AIDS from the blood that was given.’
The 72-year-old, who lives in Mount Isa, described as killers promiscuous gay men and intravenous drug users who had donated blood during the earlier days of the AIDS crisis.
‘I watched on television last night a murder case involving two people of that persuasion,’ he said.
The viewing galleries erupt as the decision to legalise same-sex marriage is handed down
‘What a day, what a day for love, for equality, for respect. Australia has done it!’ an impassioned Malcolm Turnbull said immediately following the announcement
The bill, which passed the Senate in late November, will now go to Governor-General Peter Cosgrove for royal assent. It will become law in days.
The first weddings are expected to be held in early January, because couples are required to give 30 days advance notice for nuptials under existing laws.
The prime minister had promised to pass the reform into law by Christmas and called on lawmakers to heed the ‘overwhelming’ survey result.
The issue was put to a conscience vote for parliamentarians, meaning politicians could vote as individuals rather than follow the party line.
‘Every Australian had their say and they said it is fair, get on with it!’ Turnbull said of the postal survey
Magda Szubanski celebrates on the lawn of Parliament House after the result was handed down