Thousands have rallied in Sydney for a free vote when Labor’s same-sex marriage bill is introduced to federal parliament tomorrow.
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek told the cheering crowd it was time for change.
“This is the last piece of unfinished business,” she said of gay and lesbian rights.
Ms Plibersek said a bipartisan approach to the bill would give it a much greater chance of succeeding, especially if someone in the coalition seconded it.
“This is a matter that transcends politics,” she said on Sunday.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster has also called for a bipartisan approach over moves to legalise gay marriage.
Labor leader Bill Shorten is expected to introduce a marriage equality bill into the House of Representatives tomorrow which will define marriage as a “union of two people” rather than a “man and woman”.
Ms Forster, who is engaged to a woman, said unless the bill received bipartisan support in Parliament it may not even be debated.
“This has to be a cross party reform. It’s the only way it can successfully move ahead,” Ms Forster said.
“Labor’s insisting on putting up a private members’ bill but that private members’ bill will not give them ownership of this issue because it will not go anywhere.
“It’ll be introduced to Parliament, it’ll sit there, it won’t be debated, there won’t be a vote, it’ll just lapse.”
Ms Forster was a keynote speakers at a rally in Sydney today.
She said all she wants is to have her relationship solemnised by the state, as it would be if she married a man.
“It doesn’t change the institution of marriage at all, the institution of marriage still remains being about two people committing to each other, hopefully for life, and that being legally recognised by our government. That’s all that the change is,” she said.
However, Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney General Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said there was still strong support for “traditional” marriage in the community.
Ms Fierravanti-Wells said her view remained that marriage was between a man and a woman.
“I certainly have been proud to represent the views of those people who subscribe and continue to subscribe to marriage being between a man and a woman and that’s certainly been my position for a long long time and will continue to be my position,” she said.
Ms Forster said if the gay marriage debate can receive bipartisan support, there was a strong chance Australia would follow Ireland’s lead in accepting a change in law.
Earlier this month Ireland overwhelmingly voted in favour of gay marriage at a referendum which attracted international headlines.
“The result in Ireland was undoubtedly a watershed,” Ms Forster said.
“It was a very decisive result, it was a wonderful result really.
“That’s sent the signal to anyone who might have been holding out against this potential reform that the tide has turned.”
Ms Forster called on both major parties to adopt a progressive approach to the issue.
“There is some politicking in this, there’s no doubt,” Ms Forster said.
“Behind the scenes, certainly within the Liberal Party, there’s been for a long time now people working behind the scenes to get to the position where this can come to a debate within the party room.”
“There is very much a feeling that this will be a free vote, a conscience vote, when the time comes for it to go to the Parliament and be voted on by all of Parliament,” she said.
“What is really happening now, I think, is that people are realising this has to be a cross-party decision.
“I do think it is inevitable and I’m very optimistic that we can get a result on this before the end of the year.
“I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interests to have this issue bubbling along when we come to an election year.
“I’m optimistic it will happen sooner rather than later, very optimistic.
“It’s pretty clear on this one that the majority of Australians are in favour of this.
“The latest polling was that 72 per cent of people are in favour and that’s a pretty significant majority and that’s a bigger majority than Ireland.