By Andrew M. Potts

The Greens Marriage Equality Amendment Bill will finally be debated this week, three months after a Senate committee into the bill recommended against it.

Opinions in the committee fell along party lines, with Labor and Liberal senators opposing the bill, and the only Green on the panel, the bill’s sponsor Sarah Hanson-Young, supporting it.

The only Labor senator to have expressed public support for same-sex marriage, Louise Pratt, was not given a spot on the committee.

Senator Hanson-Young said she was happy to see the bill finally debated.

“The debate comes eight months after I introduced my Private Senator’s Bill and follows a record-breaking Senate inquiry which received more than 25,000 submissions,” Hanson-Young told Southern Star.

“We’ve seen enormous community support for the bill, with rallies across the country. The issue is now moving from the streets to the Parliament.”

Hanson-Young urged the Government and Opposition to grant their members a conscience vote on the issue.

“The Labor and Liberal parties still have a very old-fashioned attitude to this. It’s an attitude that fails to reflect the diversity of modern Australia and it needs to be changed.

“Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott should give their members a conscience vote, so they can vote for what is best for their constituents.

“With polling showing that 60 percent of Australians support the right of same-sex couples to marry, this is not the time for parroting an outdated party line.

“We want Members of Parliament from both sides of the chamber to be allowed to speak freely and to be allowed to vote [freely].”

A Galaxy poll commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality last year showed that support among Labor voters was even higher at 64 percent.

Australian Marriage Equality national secretary Peter Furness said he hoped the debate would force the major parties to explain why they were at odds with a majority of Australians on the issue.

“Australians who support marriage equality are sick and tired of the failure of the major parties to reflect their views, or even to provide a half-decent explanation for opposing equality,” Furness said.

“With reform now occurring in places like Portugal, Mexico and Argentina, Australia deserves better than the head-in-the-sand approach we’ve seen from Labor and the Coalition.”

info: Debate on the Marriage Equality Bill is expected to begin at 4.30pm, Thursday, February 25 and will stream live from the Parliament House website at www.webcast.aph.gov.au/livebroadcasting

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