Marriage equality advocates have not given up on hopes that Opposition leader Tony Abbott might allow Coalition MPs a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, despite Abbott all but ruling it out.

Speaking on Sky News this morning Abbott said, although the issue would be discussed in the party room, before the last election the Coalition had promised not to amend the Marriage Act.

“It was the clear policy of the Coalition at the election that marriage was between a man and a woman,” Abbott told Sky News today.

“Every single member of the Coalition was elected on that position and I don’t think we can break faith with the electorate.”

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convenor Alex Greenwich said he remains optimistic that a free vote on both sides of Parliament is still possible.

“We remain hopeful that Mr Abbott and the Coalition will allow a conscience vote on marriage equality when a bill comes before Parliament next year, because this is an issue that continues to win hearts and minds,” Greenwich said.

Several Coalition MPs have publicly stated they would support a conscience vote, including Malcolm Turnbull, Russell Broadbent, Barnaby Joyce and Simon Birmingham.

“Allowing MPs a conscience vote is the mature way to avoid further tension within Coalition ranks,” Greenwich said.

A Galaxy poll, commissioned by AME, released this month showed 80 percent, including 76 percent of Coalition voters, supported Abbott allowing Coalition MPs a conscience vote on marriage equality.

A Nielsen poll, also released this week, however, showed support for marriage equality had dipped slightly in the past month, mainly losing ground among Coalition voters.

The poll showed same-sex marriage had fallen five percentage points to 57 percent, compared with a similar poll last month.

Voters, however, overwhelmingly agreed (81 percent) that all MPs should be allowed to vote according to their conscience.

At its National Conference this month, the Labor Party voted to change its party platform to support same-sex marriage. However, it also supported a move to allow Labor MPs a conscience vote.

Labor backbencher Stephen Jones has declared he will table a private member’s bill, which will be supported by the Greens, to reverse Australia’s ban on same-sex marriage when Parliament sits next year.

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