THE offer made yesterday by Labor’s Tanya Plibersek — at a rally in the Sydney LGBTI-centric neighbourhood of Darlinghurst — to step down from the party’s marriage equality bill if a Coalition MP could be found to co-sponsor the proposal has fallen on deaf ears.
This morning, Labor leader Bill Shorten and his deputy Plibersek introduced a bill to the House of Representatives which would change the definition of marriage from “one man and one woman” to “two people”.
However, without Coalition support it is unclear when the bill will be revisited for a debate, let alone ever be voted on.
Meanwhile, a leading pro-marriage equality voice in the Liberal party — Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s lesbian sister and City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster — has said Labor is playing politics by introducing a bill before a cross-party approach had been devised.
An estimated 1000 people squeezed into the rally at Taylor Square in Darlinghurst yesterday, beneath the giant rainbow flag, to hear all major parties plea for bipartisanship when it came to marriage equality in the wake of the recent Irish referendum.
Organisers Australian Marriage Equality urged the crowd to email their MPs and visit freevote.org.au to express support.
Speaking after the rally, Plibersek said the Coalition should back Labor’s proposal.
“Because bipartisanship is so very important for this issue to succeed I have offered to stand aside as the seconder should a Liberal or National MP be prepared to second the bill,” she said.
While Abbott raised the possibility of a future conscience vote last week, Coalition MPs are still currently bound to vote down marriage equality. As such, no government MP seconded the bill that was introduced in Parliament this morning.
Plibersek denied Labor were jumping the gun on the issue.
“As this has been debated for years, as my own bill was available for scrutiny for 14 months, I do not think any suggestions that we need more time to consider it really stands up to much scrutiny,” she said.
Rather, the deputy opposition leader said a “catch-22” situation existed where a Coalition debate on a free vote couldn’t progress until legislation was introduced and Labor had “decided to push through that stand off”.
However, Forster accused Labor of “politicking” and said the bill should have been withdrawn in favour of legislation born through cross party consensus.
“Given what the Prime Minister said in parliament last week it would have been great of Labor if they had been gracious and said OK let’s take a breath and stop trying to score points off the Liberal party,” she said yesterday.
“We need to take the politics out of the whole thing to get the right result.”
Since last week, Forster has been one of the most vocal Liberals publicly advocating for marriage equality.
She denied this was because many Liberal MPs were still unwilling to speak up on the issue.
“We’ve seen Labor politicians over the last little while come out in support of this and as we get closer to the vote we’ll increasingly see Liberal party politicians come out and support this,” she said.
South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who has her own marriage equality bill in the Senate, said bipartisanship was essential.
“No one party, no one person has brought it to this point and no one party, no one person will be able to deliver the result,” she said.
“The consensus building has begun and it needs to continue.”
The Star Observer understands a new bill, tabled by a Coalition MP and backed by the other parties, could emerge if a free vote is granted.
Over the weekend, Leichhardt federal Liberal MP Warren Entsch — regarded as an influential Coalition backbencher — reportedly agreed to work with the Opposition Leader on a cross-party bill that could see marriage equality legislated by spring.
While Entsch did not co-sign the marriage equality bill introduced by Shorten today, Fairfax Media said the pair are expected to meet after the current budget sittings of parliament finishes on June 25 to come up with an “all parties” solution.
Yesterday’s rally also heard that NSW law should be changed so married couples, where one partner transitions gender, should not be forced to subsequently divorce.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s speech as he introduced his Marriage Act amendment this morning: