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Aussie MPs doubtful about gay marriage

Debate in Australian parliament indicates there is not enough support to pass same-sex marriage bill
Liberal frontbench MP Malcom Turnbull

A two-hour debate over a same-sex marriage bill in the Australian parliament today indicated that there is not enough support to change the law.

MPs from across the political spectrum expressed doubt over the passing of the bill, despite many saying that they support it.

Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull said he would vote for legalizing gay marriage if he was allowed to vote freely on the issue, but leader of the opposition Tony Abbott has said all Liberal-National coalition MPs must vote against the bill.

‘The whole issue drips with hypocrisy and I have to say that the pools are deepest at the feet of the sanctimonious,’ Turnbull said at the debate in the House of Representatives.

Labor MPs are allowed to vote freely on the issue but several are not supporting it, including chief whip Joel Fitzgibbon and the prime minister Julia Gillard, who was not in parliament following the death of her father this week.

‘I don't think it matters much to our society, quite frankly, whether same-sex couples marry or not,’ said Fitzgibbon during the debate in which 15 MPs spoke for a maximum of ten minutes each.

Gay marriage supporter Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said that it was ‘inevitable’ that same-sex marriage would eventually be legalized in Australia, but she was not confident it would happen this year.

‘It [legalizing gay marriage] would say that Australia promotes monogamous relationships,’ said Roxon. ‘It’s saying that we promote commitment, love and family. Ultimately, these are values that strengthen our nation's cultural fabric.’

Liberal MP Warren Entsch, who has been pushing for civil unions since 2005, said that he would not support gay marriage and that other issues affecting the LGBT community are more important.

‘There are some very serious issues in the transgender and intersex community which are causing huge problems and, sadly, if they're not addressed we're going to see some very high and unacceptable levels of suicide,’ Entsch said.

The house were debating MP Stephen Jones’ private members bill, one of three same-sex marriage bills currently before the Australian parliament. Without a free conscience vote for coalition MPs however, it is unlikely any of them will be passed into law.

Same-sex marriage campaigner Alex Greenwich, national convener of Australian Marriage Equality, implored the leader of the opposition to allow his MPs a conscience vote.  

‘If there was a coalition conscience vote, more coalition MPs would be seeking out the views of their constituents, seriously considering the case for reform, and generally opening their hearts and minds to the need for change,’ said Greenwich.

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