WESTERN Australia’s Liberal Premier has publicly expressed opposition to a national plebiscite on marriage equality, arguing it could prove “destructive”.

The news came after Western Australian Parliament joined its NSW counterpart in passing a motion that calls on Federal Parliament to adopt a free vote on marriage equality.

[showads ad=MREC]Longtime marriage equality campaigner, Maylands state Labor MP Lisa Baker, had moved a motion urging WA Parliament to support marriage equality and pressuring federal parliament to follow suit.

However, after debate the lower house passed an amended motion urging the Federal Government to abandon plans for a plebiscite on marriage equality and to “urgently” hold a free vote instead.

During the debate, Premier Colin Barnett said: “If this issue were to go to a referendum or plebiscite, I think that would be very destructive.

“I think we would see some of the worst signs of Australian society. I do not believe that should happen.

“I think you would see people marching in the street on either side of the debate. I think you’d find acrimony, personal insults, abuse and the like.

“I do not want to see this issue go to a referendum or indeed a plebiscite.”

Barnett has previously stated his support for civil unions rather than marriage equality.

Nonetheless, advocates have welcomed Barnett’s comments and the motion from WA Parliament’s Legislative Assembly.

“A free vote on marriage equality is the quickest, cheapest, least divisive and most appropriate way to resolve the issue,” Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said.

NSW’s Legislative Assembly passed a similar motion unanimously in June, when Tony Abbott was still Prime Minister.

New PM Malcolm Turnbull — who has stated his support for the Liberals to adopt a conscience vote in the lead-up to the Coalition party room meeting in August that rejected it — has said he would not pursue a free vote on marriage equality, and that any amendment to the federal Marriage Act would be “determined by a vote of the people, all the people, via a plebiscite”.

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