New polling by LGBTI group PFLAG has suggested Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity would increase if he were to allow his party a free vote on marriage equality.
The poll, commissioned by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) earlier this month, found 71% of Australians, including 64% of Liberal voters, would look more favourably on the Turnbull Government if it allows a free vote.
It also found 59% support for a free vote among voters who lean to the Liberals and 60% support among those who lean to the Nationals.
The poll results were released ahead of a senate inquiry’s report into the government’s draft marriage equality bill, expected on Monday.
The inquiry looked at contentious “religious exemptions” proposed in the bill which would allow wedding service suppliers to explicitly refuse service to LGBTI couples on the basis of their sexuality.
In January, a survey majority of LGBTI Australians rejected the controversial provisions in the draft bill, and the Law Council of Australia was among those concerned about them.
In the new polling, 45% of respondents opposed laws allowing refusal of service to couples in general with 35% in favour, but this rose to 65% against and only 17% in favour when respondents were asked about laws that would specifically target same-sex couples.
Earlier this month, Malcolm Turnbull told 60 Minutes that he blamed Labor Opposition leader Bill Shorten for delaying marriage equality.
“We took the plebiscite position to the election, that is our policy and we are calling on Bill Shorten to rethink his position. If he supports the plebiscite then it will pass through the Senate and it will be held. Every Australian will have a say,” he said.
But veteran marriage equality campaigner and just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said: “This poll shows Australians want marriage equality, they want it via a free vote in Parliament and they want it to be truly equal without caveats entrenching further discrimination.
“The message to Malcolm Turnbull is that he’ll win back support from potential Liberal voters at the next election by dropping the plebiscite policy and passing marriage equality on a free vote.”
PFLAG spokesperson Shelley Argent said the results increased pressure on the PM to allow a free vote, rather than a plebiscite which she described as a “platform for hate against LGBTI people.”
“Passing marriage equality ASAP will be a win for our children, a win for Malcolm Turnbull and a win for Australia,” she said.
“Malcolm Turnbull needs to heed the message that Australians remain firmly against a plebiscite and want marriage equality dealt with in Parliament by a free vote.”
The Equality Campaign recently launched a new advertising campaign featuring Australian workers including a nurse, a firefighter, a lifesaver and a soldier questioning the delay on marriage equality.