The Australian Senate recommended on late Monday amendments to the country's Marriage Act that will pave the way for the legalisation of gay marriages, which both the Government and the Coalition have been opposing vehemently.
In a report forwarded by Labor Senator Trish Crossin, chair of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, to the full senate floor, she noted that the same-sex union legislation authored by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young elicited overwhelming support from the public.
Of the 79,200 submissions attracted by the gay marriage bill, 46,000 supported the landmark legislation, Senator Crossin said.
However, her Labor colleague, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has earlier declared her official stand against the proposal with the Labor leadership formally adopting the same party stance earlier this year.
Ms Gillard, however, and key Labor leaders have allowed party members to vote basing on their conscience in the event a bill on the issue successfully reaches the Parliament floor for actual debate.
The Coalition was more explicit on its position against gay marriages in Australia, with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott vowing strongly that any such legislation will be quashed by his party.
He also warned Coalition members not to cross the party line as he pledged punishment for future offenders.
Mr Abbott specifically reminded member of his shadow cabinet that they may have to surrender their position should they opted to back any bill that would lend legitimacy to Australian gay marriages.
His admonition, however, did not prevent Liberal senators Simon Birmingham and Sue Boyce from supporting Senator Hanson-Young's private bill, with the two commenting on the committee report: "We hope that in time the Liberal Party will also allow a conscience or free vote on the subject of same-sex marriage for its members and senators."
"In our opinion, as recommended by the majority report, this inequity warrants change," the two Liberal members were reported by The Australian as saying in the additional comments of Senator Crossin's report.
The committee chair recommended that the nation's Marriage Act should accommodate changes that would allow two persons in-love to have their union sanctioned by federal laws regardless of their gender and sexual orientation.
It would also be ideal, Senator Crossin added, if all political parties would freely allow their members to tackle the issue fully-relying on what their conscience dictate, minus the threat of partisan retaliation.
"This will be a defining day in the social fabric and the history of the nation when it comes to equality for same-sex couples," the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported Senator Crossin as saying in formally tabling her committee report.
In a reaction, Senator Hanson-Young called the committee endorsement as a push forward in the ongoing campaign for Australia to acknowledge the reality of gay marriages.
Also, she told The Australian that overtures for co-sponsorship coming from both the Government and the Coalition are most welcome, reiterating too that Mr Abbott should commence reviewing his stance on the matter.
But the bill was also scored by two committee members, with Liberal senator Gary Humphries insisting that allowing gay marriages could be in direct violation of the Australian constitution.
"The tone of the majority report was dismissive of evidence," AAP quoted Senator Humphries as saying in his dissenting report.
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