Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s decision to block Coalition MPs from a conscience vote is unsurprising, but truly disappointing.

For days after the Labor Party National Conference, Abbott used political double-speak that left advocates with a glimmer of hope all might not be lost when Parliament inevitably votes on marriage equality.

Unfortunately they were wrong and are trying to put a brave face on what’s likely to be sure defeat of any bill next year.

So it seems the ‘broad church’ Liberal Party is the party of individual choice, unless it comes to same-sex marriage.

To be fair, Abbott’s contention that the party made a promise before the last election is not without foundation. It did.

Where to now for the Coalition?

The Labor Party has made the first move in changing its party platform to support same-sex marriage. On the flip side for marriage equality advocates, Labor’s decision to allow a conscience vote has been a sneaky roadblock to reform.

If Abbott thinks this issue will go away if next year’s bill fails — as it’s likely to, given the numbers — he’s much mistaken.

Opinion polls consistently say most Australians want change. The momentum around the issue has grown at a staggering rate — for a good reason.

Most people know, are related to, or are friends with a same-sex attracted, bisexual or transgender person.
As Australian Marriage Equality convenor Alex Greenwich rightly pointed out this week, when the story of Stephanie Bolt (sister of conservative Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt) emerged, LGBTI people are everywhere.

In her revealing opinion editorial for online news site Crikey she implored Australia to change its Marriage Act to recognise her own nuptials, officiated in Canada, to her female life partner.

Stephanie’s piece emerged following an opinion editorial in which her brother opposed allowing her the same rights he enjoys to marry his wife.

The Bolts’ case exemplifies the precise reason the marriage equality campaign has been so effective.

We’re (supposedly) living in a civilised society, and when one sibling cannot marry her life partner because of her gender, it’s not fair. The laws aren’t equal.
There’s only so long Abbott can deny fair and equal treatment to same-sex couples, election promise or no election promise.

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