ADVOCATES in Australia’s LGBTI community have welcomed reports that moderate Liberal MPs in favour of same-sex marriage will push for a free vote in parliament in the coming weeks.
A report by Fairfax has suggested several MPs are hoping to hold a free vote as soon as March to get marriage equality off the political agenda ahead of the next election.
They argue that after the proposed same-sex marriage plebiscite date passes and the Senate inquiry into the government’s draft legislation is handed down, the party room should debate the issue in the second week of the parliamentary year.
Marriage equality advocate Rodney Croome welcomed the impending push by the Liberal party MPs.
“A free vote is consistent with the Liberal Party’s core principle of individual freedom and we urge Liberal members to uphold this principle regardless of what they think about marriage equality,” he said.
“Last year we were repeatedly told by government representatives it would be a plebiscite or nothing.
“The challenge now is for LGBTI Australians and our allies to maintain the pressure by constantly reminding the Coalition it will lose votes at the next election if it fails to pass marriage equality soon.”
Despite reports of same-sex marriage supporters in the Liberal party readying themselves to push for a free vote, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned Malcolm Turnbull against it in a separate report by Fairfax.
Abbott has warned Turnbull against a free vote in parliament, saying the proposed plebiscite should remain the party’s policy.
“Malcolm Turnbull made a clear election commitment that the marriage law would only change by way of people’s plebiscite, not free vote of the parliament,” he said.
“I’m sure he’ll honour that commitment. This isn’t about same-sex marriage, it’s about keeping faith with people.”
If supporters of marriage equality in the Coalition do push for a free vote in the coming weeks they will do so taking into consideration the exemptions in the draft bill allowing same-sex couples to be refused wedding services.
Spokesperson for just.equal Ivan Hinton-Teoh highlighted that freedom of religion is already protected and to add the additional exemptions was unnecessary.
“The cross-party bill that was introduced in 2015, and which had the support of Liberal MPs, protected religious freedom by allowing religious marriage celebrants the right not to marry same-sex couples,” he said.
‘That bill didn’t include exemptions for civil celebrants and businesses and this bill shouldn’t either.
“We will not accept an old form of discrimination being swapped for a new one.”
The first parliament sitting week of the year will commence tomorrow.
To send a message to Coalition MPs pushing for a free vote you can Make It Law here.