A VOTE on marriage equality could come as soon as the end of next month with reports today that a cross-party bill will be introduced on 11 August, when federal parliament resumes.
Sky News has said long-time LGBTI advocate and Liberal MP Warren Entsch along with fellow Liberal Teresa Gambaro will sponsor a bill along with two as-yet-unnamed Labor MPs.
Asked about the possibility of a bill today, McGowan, who is MP for Indi in northern Victoria, told Fairfax Media:”I’ve heard those names mentioned, I have been talking to them about it, I expressed my interest in it.
“People in my electorate want this dealt with and dealt with quickly.”
The issue has taken on new urgency following the US Supreme Court striking down the remaining state bans on same-sex marriage in America late last week.
A new marriage equality bill would add to the three already doing the rounds in Parliament House — one each from the Greens and Labor and one from NSW Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm.
However, commentators and Liberal politicians have said there is little chance of these bills getting any traction and a cross-party approach would enable neither side of the house to take all the credit if legislation is passed.
Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said a bill signed by two Liberals stood the best chance of achieving a Coalition free vote and being passed.
“With momentum growing after marriage equality in Ireland and the US, this bill gives Australia the strongest opportunity we have ever had of achieving marriage equality,” he said.
Croome said he was hopeful the Coalition would soon remove the “last hurdle” to marriage equality by allowing a free vote on the co-sponsored bill: “It is untenable for Coalition MPs to introduce legislation they can’t vote on.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has previously said the issue will be discussed in the party room when legislation is introduced.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said: “It’s the outcome that is important here, not whose name is on the bill.
“Like millions of Australians, my first and only hope here is that we can make marriage equality a reality.”
Early last month, deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek offered to stand aside as the seconder of Labor’s bill should a Liberal or National MP be prepared to second it.
Sydney City Liberal councillor, and high profile marriage equality advocate, Christine Forster accused Labor of “politicking” and said the bill should have been withdrawn completely in favour of legislation born through cross party consensus.
“We need to take the politics out of the whole thing to get the right result,” she said last month.
If a cross-party bill does come to fruition it could be discussed in the Coalition party room as soon as 18 August where a decision would be made to grant Liberal and National MPs a free vote.
With dissenting voices on both sides of parliament, a conscience vote for Coalition MPs — which Labor has already granted to its members — is considered essential for marriage equality to get across the line.
The Greens have said they will vote in favour of marriage equality.
Asked on the weekend about his opinion of marriage equality in light of the Supreme Court ruling, Abbott said: “I have views on this subject which are pretty well known and they haven’t changed.”
Yesterday, Abbott attended a function at the US Embassy in Canberra hosted by out, gay and married US Ambassador John Berry, who told the Star Observer last month he had not raised the issue directly with the Prime Minister.
At the event Abbott failed to mention marriage equality but did acknowledge Berry’s husband, Curtis Yee.