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Australian Senate approves same-sex marriage bill that omits protections for religious objectors

(Reuters/Steven Saphore)Members of Sydney's gay community react as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a pub located on Sydney's Oxford street, Australia, November 15, 2017.

The Australian Senate has approved a same-sex marriage bill that does not include protections for business owners such as bakers, florists, and musicians who might have objections to such nuptials due to their religious convictions.

The bill easily passed in the upper house by a vote of 43–12, just weeks after Australians overwhelmingly supported legalizing same-sex marriage in a postal survey conducted by the national statistics agency.

According to The Independent, conservatives pushed for broad protections that would have allowed religious objectors to opt out of participating in same-sex weddings, but the amendments were either defeated or abandoned after two days of debate in the Senate.

"The Australian people voted to lessen discrimination, not to extend it and we, the Senate, have respected that vote by rejecting amendments which sought to extend discrimination, or derail marriage equality," Labor Senator Penny Wong, who voted down all the amendments, told the parliament.

Liberal senators Eric Abetz and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells explained that they voted against the legislation to represent the 38.4 percent of Australians who voted no in the postal survey.

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan said that he opposed the measure because he believed there were not enough protections for conscientious objectors to same-sex marriage.

The passage of the bill came after 20 failed attempts to get either the upper or lower houses of government to legalize gay marriage.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched the voluntary national postal survey after the Senate blocked attempts to hold a national plebiscite before changing the law on marriage.

The voluntary survey yielded a 61.6 percent vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage with a turnout of 79.5 percent.

Turnbull's Liberal-National coalition government and the main opposition Labor Party have expressed plans to pass the measure by Dec. 7.

The legislation will now move to the lower house, where it is expected to pass next week. Conservative politicians are still hoping that there will be a renewed push for amendments that would exempt religious objectors from existing laws against discrimination.

According to Life Site News, only recognized clergy will be exempted from government enforcement of participation in same-sex marriage without such an amendment.

Turnbull's predecessor, Tony Abbott, expressed disappointment that the government had not done more on religious freedom given that the prime minister has said that he is in favor of protecting it.

Australia is set to become the 26th nation to legalize same-sex marriage if the bill passes as expected.

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