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Marriage issue to keep bubbling along

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December 07, 2017

Many within government will feel cheated none of their same-sex marriage amendments were successful.

Despite the sense of relief with the passing of same-sex marriage laws, the politics of it doesn't come to an immediate end.

There are many within the Turnbull government who feel cheated none of their changes were successful and will hold onto their disgruntlement for some time to come.

The term "proper protections" is a phrase most commonly used by critics of the bill who lost the vote on every proposed amendment as they spoke on behalf of five million 'no' voters.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce described it in typically blunt fashion: "Total victory is total tyranny."

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese countered with a Rolling Stones reference: "Those great philosophers, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, once sung 'You can't always get what you want, but you get what you need'. This bill is what these people need."

Unsuccessful amendments included exemptions for civil celebrants, small businesses and religious charities, protections against organisations losing their funding or charitable status if they disagree with same-sex marriage, and two definitions of marriage - one for men and women, and another for two people.

Conservative cabinet minister Peter Dutton accepted that in the end it was a numbers game in parliament.

He looks forward to an inquiry into religious freedoms led by former minister Philip Ruddock.

It is this inquiry, and its recommendations including possible legislation, which will keep the issue burning into next year.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus has said any future legislation on religious freedoms would not be the subject of a Labor MP conscience vote, paving the way for a battle with the coalition if it goes down that path.

Treasurer Scott Morrison, an opponent of same-sex marriage, is confident Ruddock has the skills to identify any deficiencies in the law and recommend new protections.

"It doesn't replace what many of us believe we need to do in the (parliament) ... but you've got to be careful about making changes that ... you don't have any unintended consequences," he said just after the Ruddock review announcement.

"I'm for religious freedoms, not for religious extremism."

A recent UN Human Rights Committee report appears to back up concerns about religious freedom.

The report raised concerns about Australia's anti-discrimination laws, including the lack of direct protection against discrimination on the basis of religion and the absence of a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.

As the first Australian same-sex couples clink champagne glasses, Ruddock's report, due at the end of March, will keep the issue bubbling along.

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