NSW Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm has announced he would introduce his marriage equality bill in Federal Parliament today.
The news comes after Leyonhjelm shelved his Freedom to Marry bill in early October, after Coalition and Labor MPs in favour of marriage equality reportedly pleaded to him to put it on hold because of the “wrong’’ timing.
Leyonhjelm’s bill, to be introduced in the Senate later today, seeks to allow not just same-sex couples to marry, but trans* and intersex people as well.
His bill proposes to alter the definition of marriage found in the Marriage Act to one that states it as “the union of two people”, rather than a “man and a woman”.
In addition, the bill proposes that it would not be compulsory for celebrants to marry same-sex couples, except for those employed by the government.
The introduction of the bill is widely expected to increase pressure on the Coalition to allow its MPs a conscience vote on the issue.
Before the last election, Abbott said his party’s position on marriage equality was a question for the party room, but a bill needed to be before the Parliament to prompt them to decide on this.
Marriage equality advocates hope Leyonhjelm’s bill would be a “turning point” to allow for the Coalition to decide in favour of a conscience vote.
The Labor party already has a conscience vote on the matter, while the Greens have stated they were the “strongest supporters” of it.
“Our work with the Coalition gives us hope this bill will lead to a Coalition free vote and win over key government figures because of its emphasis on individual freedom from state interference,” Australian Marriage Equality (AME) deputy national director Ivan Hinton-Teoh said in a statement.
“We call on Tony Abbott to allow a Coalition free vote because that would be consistent with Coalition values and tradition and because it has the support of 83 per cent of Australians according to polling by the Liberal Party’s own pollster Crosby/Textor.
“Our lobbying gives us confidence there is majority support for a free vote in Coalition ranks, and now is the time for Coalition supporters of a free vote to speak out.”
Hinton-Teoh urged marriage equality supporters to call and email their Coalition MPs to add pressure.
“Australians want our country to rejoin the company of nations, like the UK, the US, Canada and New Zealand, that already allow same-sex couples to marry,” he said.
“It’s embarrassing that same-sex couples can marry in places like Utah and Oklahoma, but not Australia.
“Let’s get this done so so Australia can embrace equality and move on.”
The federal Liberal MPs who have publicly confirmed their support for marriage equality so far include Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, parliamentary secretary to the Environment Minister Simon Birmingham, Longman MP Wyatt Roy, Brisbane MP Teresa Gambaro, Higgins MP Kelly O’Dwyer, and NSW Senator Arthur Sinodinos.
Hinton-Teoh said that AME was opposed to the provision of Leyonhjelm’s bill that states civil celebrants have an exemption to not have to marry LGBTI couples.
“Civil celebrants are registered by the government to perform a government duty and should not be allowed to discriminate in discharging that duty,” he said.