The NSW Opposition will allow its members a conscience vote on the same-sex relationships bill that extends parenting rights to lesbian partners.

The Liberal and National parties failed to unite behind leader Barry O’Farrell after he announced his support for the reforms earlier this month.

However, the Coalition’s divided vote will not affect the final outcome as the Labor and Greens upper house majority will support the reforms.

Shadow Attorney-General Greg Smith said the reforms were controversial and could undermine the role of fatherhood.

In areas where there is going to be a radical change to the concept of parent, then naturally that would be something that would be looked at more closely, Smith said in a statement.

I am absolutely amazed that the Labor Party is not allowing its members a conscience vote.

But Minister for Women Verity Firth said the conscience vote was a sign of weakness.

It’s disappointing that Barry O’Farrell couldn’t make his party take a principled stand to end discrimination against same-sex parent families, Firth said.

Instead, he has again caved to the powerful Hard Right of the Liberal Party, who cannot accept any form of love that doesn’t accord with their own narrow and divisive views.

Both Labor and Liberal parties gave their members conscience votes on the 2003 bill that equalised the age of consent at 16 for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

The National Party was officially opposed to changes to the age of consent but allowed Orange MP Russell Turner to cross the floor in support of his gay son.

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