A House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs report into same-sex marriage has stopped short of calling for same-sex couples to be allowed to marry.

The report, tabled this morning, instead discusses opposing views on same-sex marriage, and offers suggestions for amendments to two bills currently before federal Parliament.

In the report, Committee chair and Labor MP Graham Perrett (who is in favour of change) said it’s up to MPs to make their own decisions.

“This was an inquiry held to examine legal and social issues relating to the two bills, and the effectiveness of each bill in achieving its stated purpose. It was not an inquiry to determine the merits of same-sex marriage,” Perrett said.

“It is for the Parliament to determine the passage of the bill and this report aims to inform the Parliament in its debate on the text and outcome of each bill. “

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has offered Labor MPs a conscience vote when the bills are voted on, however, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has so far refused to allow Coalition MPs the chance of a free vote.

The response to the inquiry was one of the biggest ever, with 276 437 responses received to its online survey.

Australian Marriage Equality national convener Alex Greenwich said, however, the report is a step forward because it makes clear to MPs that churches will not be forced to marry same-sex couples if the Marriage Act is changed.

“This report will convince many of the MPs who are still ambivalent or undecided about marriage equality to support the issue because it clears up many of their outstanding concerns,” Greenwich said.

“The report’s positive message will be magnified by the fact that it has the unanimous support of both the Labor and Coalition MPs who sat on the inquiry.”

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby said it was disappointed the Committee did not specifically recommend either bill.

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