OPPOSITION Leader Bill Shorten has tonight said Labor will introduce a bill to amend the marriage act and recognise married same-sex couples as early as next Monday.

The announcement came just hours after South Australia Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young announced a debate on her party’s separate marriage equality bill would begin next month.

Both announcements follow the victory of the yes camp in last weekend’s Irish referendum which saw almost two thirds of voters choose marriage equality.

However, experts have told the Star Observer that significant hurdles, including the unwillingness of the Liberals to work with the Greens, could stymie both bills’ chances.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, who is seconding Shorten’s motion, said: “The time for marriage equality in Australia has well and truly come.

“Together we can get this done.”

The Greens’ bill to amend the marriage act would be debated on June 18 with a vote scheduled for November 12.

“Gay and lesbian Australians deserve better than being treated as second-class citizens, it’s well time the Parliament acted,” Hanson-Young said this morning.

“Cupid doesn’t discriminate and neither should the law.”

While rumours continue to surface of growing support for same-sex marriage among Liberal MPs, the lack of a free vote on the issue for the government benches remains a major stumbling block.

“The numbers are narrow so it is quite tight but we’re relatively confident,” Australian Marriage Equality deputy national director Ivan Hinton-Teoh told the Star Observer.

However, he sounded a note of caution: “I don’t think it could pass without a free vote.”

Nevertheless, Hinton-Teoh said recent comments by Prime Minister Tony Abbott indicated he might now be open to changing his position on a free vote for his Liberal colleagues, if not his personal opposition to marriage equality.

“There is strong community sentiment behind marriage equality and I think he understands that and he is under pressure from within his party to reflect that support,” he said.

Rejecting calls for a referendum yesterday, Abbott said a conscience vote on marriage equality was a matter for the Liberal party room and would only be discussed when legislation was introduced.

Today’s flurry of announcements may lay the ground work for that party room discussion.

Dr Stewart Jackson, a politics lecturer at the University of Sydney, told the Star Observer that the Irish referendum has boosted the campaign.

“Ireland has made a difference because there so staunchly Catholic and there’s a feeling if they can do it why can’t we?” he said.

Jackson said the Greens’ announcement was part of a strategy to keep momentum on the issue going and “because its writes the Greens back into the story”.

However, he said the major parties might not take kindly to the Greens taking the credit for marriage equality if its introduction became inevitable.

“They don’t want to give extra oxygen to minor parties they don’t have to give,” Jackson said.

NSW Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm, who introduced his own marriage equality bill in March, said neither bill was likely to win.

“Labor and Greens have no sway over the Liberal party and aren’t making progress and this won’t prompt the Liberals into considering a conscience vote,” he told the Star Observer.

Leyonhjelm said that in contrast, the language of his bill was more likely to win over wary Liberal MPs.

“They’re arguing from the equality perspective and I’m arguing for the perspective of get the government out of your life,” he said.

“We haven’t lost anyone on the left but we’ve made progress on the right.”

Leyonhjelm said to rush to a vote — without open and active support from those Liberal MPs in favour — could be fatal for the marriage equality movement.

“If they do bring it in on, I’ll vote for it but my expectation is it wouldn’t succeed due to partisan politicians,” he said.

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