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Nov 16, 2:07 AM EST

Australia senator urges protection for opposing gay marriage

AP Photo
AP Photo/Rick Rycroft

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- A gay-marriage opponent has urged the Australian Senate to protect religious, speech and parental rights when legislating for gay marriage.

The Senate began debating legislation Thursday that is expected to deliver marriage equality in Australia by next month.

The leader of the minor Australian Conservatives party was the first same-sex marriage opponent to debate legislation in the Senate. Cory Bernardi told the Senate there were "unforeseen consequences" in legalizing gay marriage.

A bill introduced by government senator Dean Smith would limit who could legally refuse to take part in same-sex marriage to churches, religious ministers and a new class of religious celebrants.

Smith in the debate warned against winding back LGBT rights. Eight senators have spoken in support of Smith's bill.

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