Senator calls for referendum on marriage equality

A SENATE crossbencher has called for a referendum on marriage equality, despite his motion to establish an inquiry to investigate such a national vote being defeated on Monday.

Victorian Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan put a motion in the upper house in Canberra to start the inquiry in an effort to protect the Commonwealth's role in making marriage laws.

It came as the community prepares for the High Court's verdict on the Commonwealth's case against the ACT's marriage equality laws, due Thursday.

But Senator Madigan said any decision on something as vital to society as marriage should be made by the people, not politicians, and the only way to do that was through a referendum.

"It is not up to a state or territory to change the definition of marriage so fundamentally. It is also not up to a state or territory to interfere in federal legislation," he said.

Senator Madigan said marriage has "always been between a man and a woman", and anything to change that "fundamental cornerstone of society" should be treated with extreme caution.

"Those supporting the recognition of same sex marriage tell me they have community support. Let's put it to a vote of the people," he said.

"There is nothing more democratic than that.

"It's easy to bludgeon 226 Members of Parliament; it is harder to bludgeon the electors."