Senate could debate same-sex marriage as soon as Thursday

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An Australian Senator has released a rival same-sex marriage bill that could see a number of anti-discrimination laws overturned.

"The government would not countenance making legal, discrimination that is unlawful today", he said.

The postal vote was created to end more than a decade of political wrangling in Australia over the marriage equality issue.

"We had information come out this week that showed there's been an enormous spike in, particularly, young LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex, queer) people seeking mental health services in the wake of the survey. A yes vote can not and should not and must not become a moment where others try to unravel existing anti-discrimination law".

Sen. Dean Smith, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (which is actually conservative), drafted a bill with bipartisan support that would give religious officials the power to refuse to marry same-sex couples.

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Brady, an Irish citizen, said he saw echoes of the historical discrimination against his own people in the religious freedoms push. "We don't want this to be a country with signs like the old "no Irish need apply", he said.

Mr Brandis said parliament would start the debate on same-sex marriage legalisation with Senator Smith's bill, if a "yes" vote is victorious.

"There is no apology for the fact that the Bill does not address free speech or parental rights - because it's a Bill about marriage equality".

Paterson's bill has been slammed by human rights and law bodies.

The plebiscite is expected to return a yes vote, but was voluntary and non-binding, meaning the Government can choose to ignore the result if they wish.

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"Australia's anti-discrimination laws were amended in 2013 to enact important protections for LGBTI people in recognition of the unacceptable levels of discrimination".

Freedom of speech is also covered in the proposed bill, with the senator arguing that people should be able to say whatever they like about same sex couples as long as it was not harassment or threatening.

"You could potentially see a situation where a hire auto company could leave their customers stranded on the way to a marriage ceremony simply because the driver held a thought or belief against it".

In a further rebuke, he said while parliamentarians would be entitled to put forward and debate amendments, he believed ideas such as Senator Paterson's "would have virtually no prospect of getting through the Parliament". "As a non-religious person, I should have no fewer rights to live my life consistent with my beliefs than anyone else".

With Australia's same-sex marriage poll results due this week, conservatives are asking for protections for parents, school teachers and businesses which continue to defend a "traditional understanding of marriage".

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Alex Greenwich from Australian Marriage Equality said that'd be a backward step.

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