Tony Abbott will come under renewed pressure to grant Coalition MPs a free hand on same-sex marriage with the Greens set to force a vote next month on marriage equality.
The party’s sole lower house MP and deputy leader, Adam Bandt (pictured), has told Fairfax Media he will seek to have his Marriage Equality Amendment Bill brought on for a vote in the House of Representatives on June 6.
The move is designed to achieve the widely supported change, or at least elevate the issue in the pre-election period by clearly showing voters where each MP stands.
The amendment, if passed, would make same-sex marriage lawful in Australia, following 14 other countries that have moved on the issue.
“Following successful votes in the New Zealand, UK, and France, this vote will ensure every MP’s position is clear before the election,” Mr Bandt said.
“Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard will have an opportunity to get behind the tide of history.”
US President Barack Obama also has backed the reform cause, boldly declaring before the election he went on to win in 2012 that he had reviewed his thinking in light of basic equality values.
While Prime Minister Julia Gillard remains stubbornly opposed to any change to the Marriage Act, Labor MPs have been freed from the normal party strictures, allowing them to vote with their conscience on a proposal that recent polls show has overwhelming public support.
However the Coalition’s position remains firmly opposed with Mr Abbott signalling that his party-room would only revisit the debate after the September 14 election, and that even then there would not be ”much enthusiasm” for a vote.
Critics complained that amounted to proposing a position at the election that even the Coalition could not guarantee sticking with.
“Mr Abbott needs to listen to the members of his own party, as well as the Australian people, who are calling out for a conscience vote on marriage equality,” said the Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young.
She said her party also had proposed legislation to make international same-sex marriages recognised under Australian law.
Pressure is building on Mr Abbott to mirror the Gillard position with even some Liberals who are opposed to reform favouring a conscience vote on principle.
Kooyong MP, Josh Frydenberg, told a national newspaper recently that such an approach was entirely consistent with “a proud [Liberal] tradition of allowing people to express their views”.