A Senate committee has recommended that there be a conscience vote on marriage equality and called on the Senate to pass legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The committee received over 46,000 pro-marriage equality submissions, making up nearly 60 percent of all submissions received.

The six member committee voted four to two in support of recommending changes to the Marriage Act to accommodate same-sex marriages. Liberal senators Sue Boyce  and Simon Birmingham were among those that backed the changes.

“We hope that in time the Liberal Party will also allow a conscience or free vote on the subject of same-sex marriage for its members and senators,” the pair wrote in the report.

Labor senator Trish Crossin tabled the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee’s inquiry report yesterday which looked at Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s private members bill on the issue.

“This will be a defining day in the social fabric and the history of the nation when it comes to equality for same sex couples,” Crossin told the Senate.

Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich said this was the first time that a federal parliamentary committee had given its unequivocal endorsement for marriage equality.

“This is a watershed moment in the marriage equality debate because Coalition, Labor and Greens members of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee have joined forces to help progress a reform a majority of Australians want,” Greenwich said.

“This report has given voice to the very powerful conservative case for same-sex marriage, and has also called on Mr Abbott to allow members of the Coalition the opportunity to vote for reform and express their support for marriage equality as conservatives.”

The recommendation follows the House of Representatives inquiry into the two marriage equality bills introduced by Greens MP Adam Bandt and Labor MP Stephen Jones. It did not give a recommendation of which way MPs should vote.

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