CANBERRA, Australia -- A much anticipated debate on gay marriage in Australia's Senate was postponed indefinitely on Thursday, March 26.
The private bill proposed by Senator David Leyonhjelm of the minority Liberal Democrat Party was put off because the majority Liberal Party refused to allow a conscience vote. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who leads the Liberals, has stubbornly refused to allow a conscience vote and ignored the polls that show overwhelming support for marriage equality.
The Labor Party, also in the minority in the Senate, is largely in favor of marriage equality.
Leyonhjelm told the media that any debate on Thursday -- Australia is a day ahead of the Americas -- would have been "somewhat artificial" since the Liberals as a party are opposed to same-sex marriage. A conscience vote would have allowed individual Liberals to vote from the heart, rather than following party lines.
“There’s not a lot of point kicking off the debate if the Liberals haven’t changed,” Leyonhjelm told Sky News, adding that it would be “premature to speak” in the Senate on the issue if there was no chance the bill would pass.
Political observers believe that a number of Liberal senators are in favor of marriage equality.
The marriage debate will likely shift to mid-June at the earliest, according to media reports.
Australia is one of the last of the progressive nations to tackle gay marriage. In 2005, Commonwealth sister Canada became the fourth nation in the world to embrace marriage equality and the first outside of Europe. Neighboring New Zealand legalized marriage equality in 2013. Since then, England, Wales and Scotland have also joined the bandwagon, but Northern Ireland is lagging behind on equality.
Gay marriage is legal in 37 U.S. states and the District of Columbia as well as on a number of tribal lands across America.