AUSTRALIA: New Hope For Marriage Equality Bill

Australia’s News Corp outlet reports:

Malcolm Turnbull today cleared the way for a Liberal bill legalising same-sex marriage by endorsing the right of back benchers to offer their own legislation. The Prime Minister moved from a strict insistence that Coalition policy was to hold a plebiscite on the Marriage Act change before any legislation entered Parliament.

An increasing number of Liberal MPs are calling for the matter to be settled in Parliament — possibly through a private member’s bill which could be introduced mid-August — and the Prime Minister indicated to block them would be authoritarian.

“In our party, backbenchers have always had the right to cross the floor,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Perth. “In the Labor Party you get expelled for doing that, but it has always been a fundamental principle in the Liberal Party and indeed the National Party.”

More from ABC News:

MPs return from the winter break next week and some are determined to see the law changed quickly. Some Coalition MPs believe the deadlock on same-sex marriage is overshadowing the rest of the Government’s agenda.

They are discussing ways to deal with the marriage issue — arguing that ending the standoff would help the Government move on to other topics. Federal Liberal MP Trevor Evans told the ABC a vote in Parliament would be the quickest and most efficient way to deal with the issue.

Mr Evans, who is gay, said he would raise the issue when the Coalition party room meets next week. But that discussion is likely to provoke a fierce response from Coalition figures who oppose same-sex marriage or who believe the Government should stick to its pledge to have a plebiscite.

And from the Sydney Morning Herald:

An absolute majority of 76 is required to bring on a vote in the House of Representatives. That means the Labor Party would need four Liberal MPs to cross the floor to succeed in interrupting the scheduled business of Parliament to bring forward the private members’ bill.

Liberal MPs Mr Evans, Warren Entsch, Tim Wilson and Trent Zimmerman are all likely candidates to cross the floor. The government does not hold a majority in the Senate.

The push to force a free vote would cause a major dispute within the Coalition party room and potentially threaten Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership. Mr Turnbull supports gay marriage and a free vote but agreed to continue the policy to hold a plebiscite as part of his deal to take over the prime ministership from Mr Abbott.