REPORTS of 11 federal Liberal Party MPs privately switching to a pro-marriage equality stance since January have raised hopes that the Coalition could finally be granted a conscience vote on the matter when they meet in the party room to decide as early as tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Australian Marriage Equality (AME) announced that more than one million emails from over 7600 people were sent today to federal MPs and senators calling for a free vote on marriage equality.
So far, only a small group of federal Liberal MPs and senators have defied their party’s binding policy of opposing marriage equality by publicly declaring their support for it. These include Malcolm Turnbull, Arthur Sinodinos, Wyatt Roy, Teresa Gambaro, Simon Birmingham, Dean Smith and Kelly O’Dwyer. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has previously indicated she would have an “open mind” if she were given a conscience vote.
The Labor party already has a free vote on marriage equality, and its deputy leader Tanya Plibersek has a draft bill “ready to go” once the the Coalition is given a conscience vote.
Meanwhile, the Greens have stated they were the “strongest supporters” of it.
However, AME told Fairfax Media that significant change was now under way within the ranks of the Liberal Party.
“Since the beginning of the year, 11 Coalition MPs and senators have privately indicated to us they have switched to supporting marriage equality from being opposed or undecided,” AME national director Rodney Croome said.
“It is still hard to be sure exactly what the numbers are, but the trend is clear.”
Despite this, Croome said “unpredictable” numbers in the House of Representatives meant hopes the bill would pass there were not as high as they were for the Senate.
AME stated that a total of 1,022,956 emails calling for a free vote were sent at 12noon today to Coaition MPs, but to alleviate the burden on their offices it packaged them in special electronic files so that it could sent all at once, rather than run the risk of spamming.
The grand total of emails came about after 7634 people sent pro-free vote emails through the AME website to all 134 federal Liberal and National members.
“The large number of Australians who have sent emails to their federal government members reflects strong majority support for a marriage equality free vote,” Croome said in a statement.
“It’s time for the Liberal and National parties to live up to their principle of individual freedom by allowing their parliamentary members the freedom to vote for marriage equality.
“We understand receiving so many individual emails is a problem for members and their staff so we decided to pack them into PDF files and send them all at once.
“I hope members appreciate our courtesy and repay it by acknowledging this strong swell of community support for a free vote.”
Croome also questioned the total number of anti-marriage equality and anti-free vote emails sent by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) over the weekend.
“Unlike our webform, the ACL’s doesn’t have an inbuilt validation device, opening up the possibility for its email count to be corrupted by computer-generated manipulation,” Croome said.
“We have been told by observers in Parliament House that the ACL’s emails arrive like clockwork, without any peaks or troughs, suggesting at least some are being automatically generated.”