Two equal marriage bills enter Australian parliament
13 Feb 2012
Two private members' bills have been introduced at the parliament of Australia today which would give equal marriage rights to gay couples if they can muster more support.
One bill was initiated by Adam Bandt, of the Green Party and Independent Andrew Wilke, and the other by Stephen Jones, a Labor backbencher.
Mr Bandt said: "I believe it is love that has brought us to this place in this debate and it is love that will carry us over the threshold of discrimination to full marriage equality."
The bills both provide exemptions for religious institutions.
The Labor Party voted last year to change its position on marriage to give equal rights to gay couples and Prime Minister Gillard announced she would allow her MPs a free, 'conscience' vote.
But Australia's official opposition, a coalition of parties led by the Liberals, opposes gay marriage. They have 71 seats in the House of Representatives' 150 seats, compared with the Labor party's 72.
Today, The Australian said the Coalition leader, Tony Abbott, may allow backbenchers a free vote on the issue but it was not clear how many would take the opportunity meaning progress on either bill currently looks unlikely.
Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Alex Greenwich said: "We now have a very large number of Coalition backbenchers to work with as we seek to build a parliamentary majority for equality.
"Up until today it seemed like the Coalition would vote as a block against marriage equality but now the Coalition's principle of individual freedom has prevailed thanks to the advocacy of people inside and outside the Coalition."
Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality showed 62% of Australians backing same-sex marriage.
The Galaxy Research survey of 786 people also found 11% were more likely to support equal marriage rights if churches were free to refuse to hold such ceremonies.
Mr Greenwich said of the poll: "Despite the fear campaign run by opponents of marriage equality, a consistently strong majority of Australians continue to support the reform."
"This majority increases when it is made clear that churches will not have to marry same-sex couples if they don't want to."
"We call on federal representatives across the political spectrum to reflect community values and support marriage equality with appropriate protections for religious freedoms."
81% of 18-24 year olds agreed with equal marriage, compared with 51% of the 50-64 year age group.