The Greens and Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) have spoken out prior to debate in the Senate on the Marriage Equality (Amendment) Bill.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she hoped the major parties would allow a conscience vote following the debate, as it would show the true extent of support for marriage equality in Parliament.

“If we take our understanding that the Australian people are growing in their support for removing this type of discrimination, and we believe that our Parliament is representative of the Australian community, we would have to draw the conclusion that many people within our chamber want to see that discrimination removed, and would like to see same-sex couples marry, just as heterosexual couples,” Hanson-Young said.

“Until now … the members of both major parties have been told to toe the party line. And despite the murmurings on the backbench, and behind the party room doors, we haven’t been able to see people speak freely.

“Having a conscience vote would allow those members of both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party the freedom to finally speak and talk about how they feel on this issue.”

National PFLAG spokeswoman Shelley Argent drew on her experiences as a parent in support of the bill.

“I have two sons, and I definitely see my gay son as equal to his straight brother, and I think giving them both the choice of marriage is a very important step towards equality and giving him the choices and rights that he deserves and every other gay and lesbian in this country,” Argent said.

“I am so thankful to be down here [Canberra] today to be supporting Sarah and the Greens with this proposed legislation, and as a parent of a gay male I just think it is amazing that we can probably now start to think about equality and the terms of marriage.”

Greens leader Senator Bob Brown said he had hit a wall of silence in trying to communicate with the Government on the issue.

“I’ve tried really hard to get the Government to ensure that we get a second reading vote, but I’ve got no response out of them,” Brown said.

“I am very fearful that the Government will simply filibuster so that they don’t allow parliamentarians to have a vote on this. It’s really important that they do. It is a deprivation of rights that gay and lesbian couples can’t marry.

“Public opinion polls show that Australians want this to be fixed. It’s been fixed in many countries including Catholic Spain, and many other European countries, Canada, South Africa, and it should be fixed here.”

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