Liberal backbenchers have called for calm after it emerged they were working on a cross-party same-sex marriage bill which is heading for a roadblock in the form of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
The bill is unlikely to be voted on, Mr Abbott said via a spokesperson, and therefore it won’t be discussed in the Liberal party room, he said after the news broke late on Wednesday afternoon.
“It is rare for a private member’s bill to be voted on and any bill would be subject to the usual process,” a spokesperson said.
“The Prime Minister’s position remains the same as it has always been and he supports the current policy that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
The bill is expected on August 11, pushing for party room support a week later.
Queensland Liberal-Nationals MPs Warren Entsch and Teresa Gambaro will co-sponsor the bill and it will be seconded by Labor backbencher Terri Butler, who told AAP the law would be drafted in a way to ensure it had the best chance of gaining support.
Crossbench independents Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie will join Greens MP Adam Bandt and Labor’s Laurie Ferguson in supporting the bill.
On Sky News, Labor powerbroker David Feeney said there was about 80 per cent support for the bill among his party.
But it will not survive unless Liberal MPs are allowed a conscience vote, and many vote for the bill.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott should allow a his party free vote on the bill.
“It’s about time Abbott is a bit more liberal about what the Liberal Party stood for,” Mr Shorten said.
While it’s “slightly” different to Labor’s bill introduced on June 1, it uses the same language to replace “man and woman” with the words “two people” in the Marriage Act, a new clause will ensure that chaplains and church ministers, won’t be compelled to preside at same-sex marriages.
— AU Marriage Equality (@AMEQUALITY) July 1, 2015
Now that parliament has risen for the six-week winter break, the parties have time to discuss their positions.
Media should ‘respect’ decision
But Mr Entsch and Ms Gambaro have both called for calm.
“[Mr Entsch] has said all along that if there is to be any chance of success, this issue needs to be approached in a careful, considered and respectful manner,” his office said.
“He will not compromise this by prematurely running a debate in the media. If the media wants to see this bill be successful, they should respect that decision.”
Ms Gambaro pointed to agents playing politics with the topic of same-sex marriage.
“It saddens me that some people have sought to exploit this issue for political gain. I will not participate in such a process,” she said.
“Marriage is fundamentally an expression of love and should not be an issue that divides us.”
I confirm that I am a co-sponsor of a Bill on same-sex marriage. http://t.co/Tr2WbfH2wE
— Teresa Gambaro (@TeresaGambaroMP) July 1, 2015
According to the lobby group Australian Marriage Equality, a free vote has a chance of passing through parliament.
“It is untenable for Coalition MPs to introduce legislation they can’t vote on,” said AME national director Rodney Croome.
“We aim to win majority support in parliament with grassroots mobilisation, rallies and advertising campaigns throughout July and across the nation.”
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in July that same sex marriage was legal, and Ireland has voted to allow same-sex marriage by a referendum in May.