Calls for a ‘free vote’ on same sex marraige

A change in Australian Government leadership has rekindled hope for supporters of same-sex marriage, who are calling on the new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to scrap a proposed plebiscite in favour of a free vote in parliament.

However, not everyone is happy with a possible change in policy.

Caleb Taylor reports.

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The knifing of Prime Minister Tony Abbott has renewed calls from same-sex marriage supporters for the Liberal Party to allow a free vote for its members in Parliament.

Following the September leadership spill which saw the election of Malcolm Turnbull – who has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage – pressure group Australian Marriage Equality (AME) has said it is hoping the new PM will do away with the proposed plebiscite which would be held at the same time as the next federal election.

“We are hoping the Prime Minister changes the party’s policy on a plebiscite,” deputy director of Australian Marriage Equality, Ivan Hinton-Teoh, said. “As the Prime Minister said in question time, the idea of holding a vote in parliament is the cheapest and fastest way to achieve reform.”

Despite polls revealing that 72 per cent of Australians agree with same-sex marriage the issue was divisive for the Abbott government.

In August, Liberal MP Warren Entsch introduced a cross-party bill on same-sex marriage that was not backed by the PM. However, after a lengthy party room debate, Mr Abbott announced the policy of a plebiscite. This has an estimated price tag of $100 million.

Leadership development director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Nick Jensen has said a new definition of marriage needs to be decided on by the Australian public.

“(Obviously we don’t support it) but it being put to the people is the best political way,” Mr Jensen said. “Marriage has had a clearly understood cultural definition before (any kind of) civil definition.”

Numbers published on the AME website reveal the group is still shy of the numbers needed for reform – it has 68 votes in the lower house and 37 votes in the Senate. It needs 76 and 39 votes respectively.

[Filed on 30 September 2015]

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