Australian lawmakers have overwhelmingly rejected a bill which would have legalized gay marriage in the country.

The House of Representatives voted 98 to 42 against the measure, the AP reported.

A separate bill on the issue being debated in the Senate is also not expected to pass.

“I think at some future time our Parliament will catch up with community opinion, just as it has on other issues,” said senior government minister Anthony Albanese, a reference to polls which show a majority of Australians support gay marriage. “When marriage equality occurs, people will wonder what the fuss was about.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the head of the country's ruling Labor Party, has said she is opposed to such unions. The conservative Liberal Party also objects to gay nuptials.

Openly gay Finance Minister Penny Wong pleaded with her colleagues to approve the bill.

“If you subscribe to the principle of equality, as I'm sure most in the chamber would, then substitute 'same sex' for 'race' in this debate and see if it changes our view,” she said on the House floor.

At least two Australian states – Tasmania and South Australia – in recent months have said they will push for marriage equality.