A GREENS' bill to recognise the marriages of homosexual Australians who tie the knot overseas has been defeated in the Senate.
But while the bill's 44-28 defeat did not come as a surprise, Coalition Senator Sue Boyce's decision to cross the floor and vote with the Greens was noteworthy.
The Queensland senator, who will resign from politics when her term expires, delivered an impassioned speech on Thursday in support of the bill.
Her views on same-sex marriage are at odds with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and the Coalition's position.
Senator Boyce read out the growing list of countries, dating back to the Netherlands in 2001, to have legalised same-sex marriage.
She described as "appalling" a suggestion by DLP Senator John Madigan, who is opposed to same-sex marriage, that a referendum should be held to settle the definition of marriage.
"Surely in 2013 we're past the sort of homophobic, scared of difference, scared of diversity view that would be implied by any sort of attempt to put that marriage is between a man and a woman into the Constitution," Senator Boyce said.
She predicted a referendum on the issue would be defeated because it was a "disgusting and immoral idea".
Senator Boyce spoke about the joy she felt when New Zealand legalised same-sex marriage earlier this year.
"Same-sex marriage is not going to be the end of the world for anybody, especially not for children or for couples in Australia," she said.
"A marriage is a special commitment. A marriage provides more security for those in it, including the children who would be in it.
"There is no reason not to allow same-sex marriage in Australia. I believe that this bill will assist us in moving towards that."
Senator Boyce said the Greens' bill had the potential to advance the cause of same-sex marriage in Australia.
It was a view shared by Finance Minister Penny Wong during her powerful contribution to the debate.
She criticised people like South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi, who this week attempted to justify his remarks from earlier this year linking same-sex marriage to bestiality.
Such comments "promoted bigotry", Senator Wong told the Senate.
"We should never overlook the fact that words spoken by people in this place - people who have the privilege to be in this chamber - carry a special weight," said Senator Wong , who is in a lesbian relationship.
"And we should not overlook the hurt and the distress these statements can cause."