THE Coalition is no closer to allowing its MPs a free vote on marriage equality despite LGBTI advocates saying there is now a slim majority in parliament in favour of change.
The inaction comes as new polling shows support for marriage equality in key Coalition marginal seats has now reached almost 70 per cent.
However, at today’s Coalition party room meeting — which comes just a day after Labor leader Bill Shorten introduced a marriage equality bill to Parliament — a free vote was not even discussed, according to Australian Marriage Equality (AME).
AME National Director Rodney Croome said the government was in no position to criticise Shorten’s bill if it then failed to debate a free vote.
“The community is growing increasingly impatient with the Federal Government for not dealing with a free vote,” he said.
“Marriage equality is easy, popular and doesn’t cost a cent. Let’s get it done.”
This morning, Liberal MP for Corangamite Sarah Henderson announced she would vote for marriage equality if a free vote was given.
“Support for marriage equality is consistent with fundamental Liberal values which embrace freedom of the individual and stable, long term relationships,” she said in a statement.
“If two people love each other and wish to commit to a life together, they should have the option to be recognised equally under the law.”
Henderson’s announcement has led marriage equality advocates to suggest they may now have the 76 votes needed to get same-sex marriage over the line.
Nevertheless, at Sunday’s marriage equality rally in Sydney a leading pro-reform voice in the Liberal Party, City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster, warned against going to a vote too soon.
“There are still an awful lot of people we need to bring along on this journey — on the Liberal side certainly but also on the Labor side,” she said.
“But what we want is to bring them to a point where we can have a resounding yes, an Irish result.”
Meanwhile, polling by Reachtel on the weekend showed support for marriage equality was now higher in four key Coalition marginals than the result in last month’s Irish referendum.
In the Melbourne’s eastern suburbs seat of LaTrobe support for marriage equality is at 67 per cent while in the Gold Coast electorate of McPherson those in favour tip 69 per cent.
Nevertheless, anti-marriage equality voices are beginning to be heard.
This morning, the Liberal’s Zed Seselja criticised fellow MP Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg for saying on ABC’s Q&A last night that marriage equality was “inevitable”.
The ACT Senator said Frydenberg’s comment was “unhelpful” and urged the Coalition to stay true to its policy of retaining the current definition of marriage.
“I think it’s also important that where we do have a long-standing party position that ministers support that party position publicly,” he said.
Yesterday, Abbott said the government’s priority was the budget.