NEXT week’s parliamentary debate on marriage equality has increased pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to allow MPs a conscience vote on the issue after it was revealed two Liberal politicians are said to be ready to co-sponsor the proposal.
NSW Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm said this morning he would take his Freedom to Marry bill to a second reading next Thursday.
According to Leyonhjelm, openly-gay Western Australian Liberal Senator Dean Smith and Longman federal Liberal-National MP Wyatt Roy are potential co-sponsors of the bill.
Roy, Australia’s youngest MP at only 24, has proven to be a thorn in Abbott’s side being a consistent – if not vocal – advocate for marriage equality as well as a backer of the recent spill motion against the PM.
However, Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek has warned the bill stands no chance of being passed if Abbott continues to stand in the way of a free vote.
Plibersek – who said she had a marriage equality bill “drafted and ready to go” – confirmed she had held discussions with Leyonhjelm.
“But as I’ve said many times, I will only introduce the bill when Tony Abbott allows members of the Coalition party room a conscience vote, because that’s the only way the bill would have any prospect of succeeding,” she said.
When same-sex marriage was passed in New Zealand and the UK it had the backing of all the leaders of the main parties while Ireland’s upcoming referendum on the issue is also supported across the floor.
Yesterday, a motion by South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young that called on the PM to grant a conscience vote on the issue was passed through the Senate.
The Greens has said all their MPs – currently numbering one in the House of Representatives and 10 in the Senate – will vote for marriage equality while Labor has only promised a free vote.
Australian Marriage Equality deputy director Ivan Hinton-Teoh said support for same-sex marriage among coalition MPs has never been higher.
“It’s deeply embarrassing for many Australians that same-sex couples can marry in countries across the western world, including in places like Alabama, but not here in Australia,” he said.
Human Rights Commissioner, and former Liberal party member Tim Wilson, continued his call for marriage equality.
“[Gay and lesbian] Australians have paid taxes, worked, volunteered in civil society, fought and died in battle, and fallen to save others at Port Arthur and Martin Place,” he said.
“They’ve met their responsibilities; shouldn’t they get their civil rights too?”
Leyonhjelm – who is a libertarian – has worded his bill so that celebrants who object to same-sex marriage will not be forced to officiate at them, a provision which has concerned some LGBTI advocates who believe legislation should not allow discrimination in special circumstances.
The senator has his bill will not proceed beyond a second reading unless the Coalition allows its MPs a free vote.