Federal Liberal party MPs who support marriage equality are pushing for a free vote in the parliament in the hopes a vote on the reform could be held this year, according to a report.
Fairfax Media reported on Saturday Liberal MPs including Dean Smith, Warren Entsch, Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman, Trevor Evans and Melissa Price are among the politicians leading the discussions.
Supportive MPs said they’re arguing the issue needs to be removed from the agenda and the party has historically allowed conscience votes on such issues.
“No one wants this issue to go on into the May budget session, so lets deal with this quickly and relatively painlessly,” one supporter told Fairfax.
PFLAG spokesperson Shelley Argent welcomed the news and thanked the Liberal members for pushing for a free vote.
“When a plebiscite was voted down last year we immediately moved to Plan B, lobbying Coalition members who support marriage equality to push harder for a free vote and that is what is now happening,” she said.
She urged all supporters across the country to use the Make It Law website to email both Coalition members about a free vote and Labor members who are yet to support marriage equality.
A draft marriage equality bill was released by the government last year as part of its failed marriage equality plebiscite. A Senate inquiry is looking at contentious exemptions in the bill that would allow “ministers of religion, marriage celebrants and religious bodies and organisations” to refuse to conduct same-sex marriages, and the inquiry is due to report by February 13.
LGBTI groups and the Law Council of Australia, among others, have told the inquiry the exemptions are discriminatory and go too far.
But one supportive MP told Fairfax that compromises to allow religious exemptions would be necessary.
“No one can have everything they want. But if the Parliament can agree on a compromise, that is a good thing,” they said.
But others in the party have rejected the push altogether, with Coalition Senator Eric Abetz telling Fairfax: “The Prime Minister has made it crystal clear that the government’s position is for a plebiscite or nothing.”
Labor Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also weighed in, tweeting: “Labor will work with all members of Parliament to secure marriage equality. Let’s just get it done.”
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) February 3, 2017
Meanwhile, Australian Marriage Equality will on Sunday launch a new advertising campaign, which would include TV ads and billboards in locations such as Canberra Airport, greeting MPs arriving on Monday for the first week of Parliament.