A VOTE on marriage equality in Parliament could happen within the coming weeks and cause splintering within the Coalition, as a handful of Liberal MPs suggest they may cross the floor on the issue when parliament returns next week.
Liberal backbenchers that expressed their willingness to cross the floor on the divisive issue include Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson, Warren Entsch, Trent Zimmerman and Jason Wood.
Openly gay Queensland Liberal MP Trevor Evans has commented that he believes a parliamentary vote is the quickest way to resolve marriage equality, and he hasn’t ruled out crossing the floor to support Labor in a marriage equality bill.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull said Evans and other MPs have the right to exercise a conscience vote on the matter.
“In our party, backbenchers have always had the right to cross the floor,” he said.
“It’s always been a fundamental principle in the Liberal Party and indeed the National Party. So it’s a very different political culture to the very authoritarian and centrally controlled culture of the Labor Party.”
Coalition MPs who are against same-sex marriage or believe the government should stick to its promise to introduce a plebiscite are likely to fight a parliamentary vote.
Conservative Liberal MP Craig Kelly has also warned any colleagues crossing the floor that they would be responsible for breaking an election commitment.
Other senior conservatives Liberals have said Turnbull’s leadership is “terminal” if he can’t stop MPs from crossing the floor over marriage equality, according to the Herald Sun.
“If Turnbull can’t control the moderates, what’s the point of his prime ministership?” said one.
The issue is expected to come to a head next week after a private members’ bill is sent to all MPs.
“It has to be resolved within the next week because it’s starving the government of talking about legislation,” said one MP yesterday.