LGBTI community, Bendigo MP praise parliament's rejection of same-sex marriage plebiscite

Members of Bendigo’s LGBTI community have called the federal government’s failed bid for a same-sex marriage plebiscite “bittersweet” and are angered the popular vote was ever under consideration.  

The coalition’s planned plebiscite was defeated 33 votes to 29 in a late night sitting of the Senate on Monday.

It had already passed the lower house.

Bendigo Queer Film Festival secretary Tashara Roberts said while she was pleased the plebiscite would not go ahead, the political stalemate was not cause for celebration.

“For most queer people, it’s going to be bittersweet,” she said. 

“If you want to look at the silver lining, it's great that people have put enough pressure on so that the government couldn’t do it (the plebiscite).

“But the next step needs to happen and it needs to happen soon.” 

Ms Roberts was distressed the idea of a popular vote on marriage equality was ever considered appropriate.

“We don't vote whether a straight couple can get married or not, so why should we vote on whether a gay couple can get married or not?”

Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters, who was a vocal opponent of the government’s plan, urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to allow debate of the opposition’s same-sex marriage legislation.

Three marriage equality bills are awaiting debate, which Australian Marriage Equality modelling suggests would pass if parliamentarians were granted a conscience vote. 

“It is the government, not the opposition and cross-benchers, that is blocking the passage of this legislation,” Ms Chesters said. 

She believed community pressure for marriage equality would not abate in the wake of the failed plebiscite bid.

Ms Chesters used the words of Bendigo residents to argue against the national vote in a speech to parliament last month. 

Among those quoted by Ms Chesters was 30-year-old Kennington resident, Graeme. 

Speaking to the Bendigo Advertiser on Tuesday, Graeme – who asked for his surname not to be printed – said the senate vote was a victory for young LGBTI people.

“[My generation] have been dealing with this for years,” he said.

“But for the younger people, who are trying to come to terms for their lives, they don't need people to judge them.”