UPDATE: AME says it has confirmation from senior government officials that there will be no vote on Jones’s bill until after the winter break (which begins next week and ends on August 13).
Marriage equality advocates have hit back at reports members of Labor’s right faction want to rush a vote on same-sex marriage while Parliament has the numbers to oppose it.
It was reported this week that members of the right want an early vote on NSW Labor MP Stephen Jones’ same-sex marriage private member’s bill to push it off the agenda, claiming it is damaging the party.
Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich said the move would “betray” the wishes of most Labor Party members.
“What they’re trying to do is to promote a bit of defeatism, but that’s really underestimating the resolve of those who support marriage equality,” Greenwich told the Star Observer.
“The whole strategy around that is really betraying the grassroots of the party because it was made clear last year that Labor members and voters want the party to deliver marriage equality.”
It’s understood 36 Lower House Labor MPs would support a marriage equality bill, while up to 15 remain undecided. However, without Coalition support, the two marriage equality bills before the House of Representatives would most likely fail.
Greenwich said he remains optimistic.
“I don’t agree … that the vote is doomed to fail,” he said.
“We were told the Labor Party would never change its policy, we were told the Australian public would never support marriage equality and we were told there was no way we’d be able to get this motion up in state Parliaments and, in all three cases, the opposite happened.
“When it comes to crunch time, MPs realise this is actually about treating their friends, their family members, their colleagues or their constituents with equality and dignity under the law.”
This week Opposition Communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said he is in favour of same-sex marriage, however, as a frontbencher, he is bound by his party to vote against it.
Rainbow Labor spokesman and Australian Capital Territory treasurer Andrew Barr said without Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s support for a conscience vote, it’s unlikely Jones’ bill would pass this year.
“It would be difficult to get to 76 given the makeup of the current parliament,” Barr told the Star Observer.
“It was always anticipated it would take more than one go to achieve this.
“As we’ve been going through the lobbying process amongst Labor ranks we’re certainly gaining support and the expectation is nearly all the undecided MPs will end up being supportive … but we recognise we’re not going to get every Labor MP’s support.”
Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt, who has sponsored one of the bills before Parliament, said he would not rush to a vote until he gains further Coalition support.
“Many Coalition MPs who want either to support the bill or the right to vote according to their conscience at the moment are not prepared to speak up,” Bandt told the Star Observer.
“I’ve spoken to some of them personally, so I think that until the Coalition is granted a free vote, one needs to look at those numbers with caution.”
Victorian Equal Love spokeswoman Louise O’Shea called for the community to show its support at marriage equality rallies to be held around Australia on August 11.