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Australia lawmakers reject same-sex marriage legislation

Legislation intended to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] in Australia was overwhelmingly voted down on Wednesday. The Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 [bill, PDF], introduced to the House of Representatives by Labor MP Stephen Jones [official websites], was rejected by a vote of 42-98. The legislation failed despite 64.3 percent of the population supporting the bill, according to a survey [report, PDF] of 276,000 people conducted by the House of Representatives. The uneven vote may be partly attributed to Liberal MPs not being allowed a free vote by their party; Labor MPs were allowed to vote their conscience. At the close of debate on the bill, Jones argued [transcript]:

The case for the bill is simple. It is about equality, it is about recognition of relationships-the validation of those relationships-and it is about saying to people who are often excluded, alienated or discriminated against, "You know what? You are okay. What's more, you are better than okay: your relationship is just as valid as mine is in my marriage to my wife."
Same-sex marriage advocates are expected to re-focus their effort towards recognizing the unions on a state-by-state level.

Same-sex marriage recognition has been a contentious issue both internationally as well as within the US. Thus far in 2012 France, Germany and Scotland [JURIST reports] have all seen new efforts to get same-sex marriages recognized. Earlier this month the US Department of Justice asked the US Supreme Court to consider two more challenges [JURIST report] to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text], which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages. In July a lesbian couple filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] in a DOMA challenge that seeks to achieve for gay and lesbian couples the same federal immigration rights afforded to heterosexual couples [JURIST report].

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