Debate on a marriage equality bill in the Australian Senate is expected to begin as soon as Thursday, after the bill’s author, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young announced she would use private member’s time to begin the debate.
Hanson-Young made the announcement on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation channel’s Insiders program on Sunday morning following announcements by two Australian states, Tasmania and South Australia, that they would pass their own same-sex marriage laws if the federal government failed to act.
‘I think its been great to see the states taking the leadership on this and really showing up what most Australians want – we want to see marriage equality delivered in Australia,’ Hanson-Young told Insiders.
‘To that point, this week in the Senate on Thursday we will be finally debating my same-sex marriage bill, the Marriage Equality Bill, trying to get some movement on that issue in the federal parliament because the majority of Australians accept that we should get on with it.
‘Nobody agrees that [Opposition Leader] Tony Abbott should be blocking his members from having a conscience vote, and … nobody believes [Prime Minister] Julia Gillard’s position on it. It doesn’t ring true and Australians just want us to get on and do it so that’s what we’ll be doing on Thursday.’
Marriage equality advocates welcomed the announcement by Senator Hanson-Young.
‘The strong recommendation from the recent senate inquiry coupled with high support for reform in the senate will give the bill a fighting chance of passing,’ Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convenor Alex Greenwich said.
‘With respected advocates such as Simon Birmingham, Penny Wong, and Sarah Hanson-Young sitting in the senate we can be assured the voices of a majority of Australians will be heard.’
There are currently 30 Australian senators who have declared support for the reform, 26 undecided, and only 20 opposed.
Greenwich called on opponents to debate the issue in a respectful and mature way.
‘We hope those opposed to reform do not waste the senate's time to promote fear and misinformation,’ Greenwich said.
Greenwich said he was hopeful the bill would be co-sponsored by senators from both sides of politics.
‘It will send a strong message of acceptance to gay and lesbian Aussies if the bill is co-sponsored by Senators from across the political spectrum.’ Greenwich said.
‘Tony Abbott has an opportunity to up hold a Liberal Party tradition and grant a conscience vote. This will allow members of party to vote with, rather than against, the aspirations of a clear majority of Australian voters’