AUSTRALIA: Parliament To Vote On Marriage, MPs To Get “Conscience Vote”

Via the Sydney Morning Herald:

Parliament is heading for a historic vote on same-sex marriage in which all MPs will be free to vote according to their conscience. The Coalition party rooms are likely to decide on a conscience vote during the coming spring session of Parliament, with one Liberal MP saying it is now ”almost certain” the party will dump its binding opposition to gay marriage. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose sister Christine Forster is in a same-sex relationship, promised before the election the Liberal Party room would be free to decide on a conscience vote.

The matter is expected to reach a crucial stage in the next two sitting fortnights of Parliament in August and September after senior Liberals asked crossbench Senator David Leyonhjelm to introduce his draft bill to legalise same-sex marriage. The government wants his proposed legislation on the notice paper so that it has time to scrutinise the exact wording before deciding which way to go. Senator Leyonhjelm has agreed, reversing his stated position when he announced the draft bill last month. At the time, he said he would not introduce it until the Liberal Party room opted for a conscience vote.

A poll released last month showed that support for marriage equality is at an all-time high in Australia.

A Crosby Textor poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality, has found that 72 per cent of Australians want same-sex marriage legalised, while 77 per cent think Coalition MPs should be granted a conscience vote. According to the poll, support for same-sex marriage is now higher in Australia than it was in any other country, including New Zealand and Great Britain, when overseas parliaments have passed marriage equality laws.

The poll found that a majority of voters across a range of demographics and in almost every age group backed marriage reform. A majority of respondents in each Australian state said they wanted to see marriage equality, as did a majority of Australians who identified with major religions, including Catholic, Anglican and non-Christian religions. An overwhelming 85 per cent of respondents with children were pro-marriage equality. The lowest results came from Australians aged over 65, at 48 per cent, and men over 55, at 42 per cent.