Australian same-sex marriage vote bid rejected

A protester during a rally for marriage equality last year (Getty)
A protester during a rally for marriage equality last year (Getty)

The Australian federal government's proposal to hold a referendum on whether to legalise same-sex marriage has been vetoed in the Senate. 

The bill was defeated by opposition parties Labor and the Greens, who say a public plebiscite would allow hatred to be voiced towards the LGBTI community. They would rather see a direct vote made in Parliament.

On Monday night (local time), the proposal was voted down 33 to 29.

A defeat would result in delaying same-sex marriage in Australia for years to come, Attorney-General George Brandis had said earlier.

"Stop playing politics with gay people's lives, because that is all that you are doing," Senator Brandis told the parliament.

"A vote against this bill is a vote against marriage equality."

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said: "I've lost count of the number of my LGBTIQ friends who have urged and begged us not to support this plebiscite". 

There's been over a year of debate over having a same-sex marriage referendum, which Tony Abbott had first suggested, and Malcolm Turnbull had carried forward.

The government had promised a public vote would happen in early 2017 and Mr Turnbull had expressed confidence it would be supported by the public. 

But opposition parties, with the support of lesbian and gay groups, argued it would lead to divisive debate that would harm members of the LGBTI community.

The referendum idea also gained opposition for its AU$170 million estimated cost.

Australian National MP Andrew Broad said the government would not tackle the issue for the foreseeable future, saying National believed the public vote was the only pathway towards marriage equality.