Advocates believe there may now be enough support in Federal Parliament to legalise same-sex marriage, if Coalition MPs get a free vote.
Victorian Liberal MP Sarah Henderson has revealed she supported the push and wanted a free vote, a move that could provide the bill with the numbers it needs to pass.
The former ABC presenter said she has made her position known “in anticipation” the issue may come before this morning’s party room meeting.
“I confirm that I support both marriage equality and a free vote for Coalition MPs,” she said.
“I committed to consult broadly and then make my position known when the issue came before the party room.
“People who held a different view five or 10 years ago are now saying ‘I didn’t support marriage equality and now I do’, so I do think that there is a fundamental shift.
“People are concerned about discrimination, they are concerned about what people have endured in the past.”
Advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality last week believed they were just one vote shy of the 76 needed to get a bill legalising same-sex marriage through the Lower House, if Coalition MPs get a free vote.
The group’s national director, Rodney Croome, said Ms Henderson’s vote could mean a bill would now succeed.
“We may just have crossed the line into a majority, I’m not calling it yet but I think we’re very close,” he said.
Liberal MPs think majority of party room would back free vote
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Monday put a same-sex marriage bill to Parliament which is unlikely to be voted on until spring, while Coalition MP Warren Entsch is working on a cross-party bill and hoping it will go to a vote by the end of the year.
Ms Henderson said she supported a cross-party approach.
“As an MP driven by a strong sense of compassion, equity and justice, I believe our nation should follow the lead of countries such as the UK, New Zealand, Canada and Ireland and legalise same-sex marriage,” she said.
“Support for marriage equality is consistent with fundamental Liberal values which embrace freedom of the individual and stable, long-term relationships.
“If two people love each other and wish to commit to a life together, they should have the option to be recognised equally under the law.”
Several Liberal MPs who support same-sex marriage believe the majority of their party room would back a free vote on the issue.
One of them said given the number of his colleagues now engaged in the debate, it was possible someone could call for the issue of a free vote to be settled in today’s party room meeting.
However he said he thought Prime Minister Tony Abbott would say he did not want it discussed today, given many Upper House MPs would be absent from the meeting due to Senate Estimates.
Conservative Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has warned the party’s base would be “desperately disappointed” if it changed its position on same-sex marriage.
“I think there are consequences for this, and I think if the Liberal Party abandons what I think has been one of its longest standing policy positions because of pressure from the Labor Party and a few activists, then I think there’ll be huge consequences for the party itself,” he said.