NSW Coalition MPs have today sent a pointed message to their Canberra colleagues by backing a motion urging the federal Coalition to allow a free vote in any upcoming marriage equality debate.
The motion, put forward by Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich and backed by Liberal MPs Bruce Notley-Smith and Lee Evans, Labor MP Jo Haylen and Greens MP Jenny Leong, asks that federal MPs be “free to express their own view and the views of their electorates on marriage equality”.
However, despite their currently being three marriage equality bills in play – one each from the Greens and Labor and one from NSW Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm – the issue has yet to be even discussed in the Liberal’s Canberra party room.
Liberal supporters of marriage equality, such as City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster, have said only a cross-party marriage equality bill is likely to win support.
According to a 2014 poll for Australian Marriage Equality (AME) 75 per cent of people in NSW support marriage equality.
Greenwich said his motion was an effort to stop the Federal Government from “delaying the inevitable”.
“The Liberal Party claims to be the party of ‘individual freedom’ and a free vote should be its default position on this issue,” he said.
“We must stop showing disrespect to the institution of marriage, which should be about love and commitment and not discrimination.”
Greenwich noted that NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird, while opposed to marriage equality, does support a free vote on the issue.
“It shows a great maturity in leadership to allow your party members the ability to express a different view than yours,” Greenwich said.
“It’s time the Prime Minister showed that maturity and allowed the growing number of Coalition supporters of marriage equality the ability to vote for reform.”
While backing the motion, Leong of the Greens’ said: “We don’t need a free vote because when it comes to equality, every vote, every time, [the Greens] will vote for equality.”
The Liberal’s Notley-Smith said for the people of NSW, “this issue is no longer an issue” and people just wanted politicians to get on and pass marriage equality.
Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said the motion increased pressure on Tony Abbott.
Meanwhile, AME has lashed out at plans to give Tasmanian school children a booklet advocating against marriage equality.
Yesterday, Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous said 12,000 copies of a publication entitled Don’t Mess with Marriage will be given to school children at Catholic schools in the state, according to Channel 9.
However, Croome said the booklet could fall foul of anti-discrimination law: “The Catholic Church has every right to express its views from the pulpit but it is completely inappropriate to enlist young people as the couriers of its prejudice.”