Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm today announced his Freedom to Marry Bill will return for debate in the Australian Senate as soon as next Thursday.
In doing so, Senator Leyonhjelm called on Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to allow his MPs and senators a conscience vote on the issue.
Abbott has said in the past that his MPs would get a conscience vote on the issue when his party room decided they should and Leyonhjelm believes there is enough support amongst members of the ruling Liberal-National Coalition for that to occur.
However Leyonhjelm told a press conference earlier today he did not think there was enough support for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Australian House of Representatives yet for the bill to pass – although he thought it had a chance of passing in the Senate.
Leyonhjelm said his intention in putting the bill up for debate was rather to have more members of the Parliament be honest about where they stood on the issue as a step towards the future legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia which he did not think would occur until at least after the next Australian election could be held.
That will occur in late 2016 or early 2017 unless Abbott calls an early double dissolution election in which all seats in the House and Senate would be up for grabs – though that seems unlikely given his government’s low approval rate.
Leyonhjelm’s announcement was welcomed by the campaign for same-sex marriage in Australia, Australian Marriage Equality (AME).
‘We welcome Senator Leyonhjelm’s initiative because Australia can’t wait any longer for marriage equality,’ AME deputy director Ivan Hinton-Teoh said.
‘The smart thing for Tony Abbott to do is honor his pre-election promise to allow the Coalition party room to decide on a free vote so marriage equality can move forward.’
‘It’s deeply embarrassing for many Australians that same-sex couples can marry in countries across the western world, including in places like Alabama, but not here in Australia.’
Hinton-Teoh said there was now wide support for marriage equality within the Liberal-National Coalition’s ranks.
‘I have spent most of this week meeting with Coalition members and I can confidently say that support for marriage equality is higher than ever,’ Hinton-Teoh said.
‘It’s time for these members to be free to vote for what they and the majority of Australians believe. We call on marriage equality supporters across the political spectrum to support Senator Leyonhjelm’s bill.’