Australia's ruling Coalition may offer
its members a free vote on gay marriage.
Liberal Party Communications Minister
Malcolm Turnbull has signaled that the Coalition, which includes the
Liberal Party and its partner, the National Party, will probably let
legislators vote as they choose on the issue.
“The Liberal Party and the Coalition
generally should allow a free vote on the issue of same-sex marriage,
or marriage equality, and I support that,” Turnbull said in a Sky
News interview. “I think it is likely that we will, but as [Prime
Minister] Tony Abbott has said, it's a decision for the party room
and not for him.”
“People of the same sex can get
married in Auckland and Wellington, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, in
New York and Los Angeles, in Baltimore, in Cape Town, but not in
Australia. It does start to look as though we are the ones out of
step,” he added.
The move comes less than a week after
the federal government challenged a marriage law approved by
lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Australia's
highest court struck down the ACT's marriage law just days after it
went into effect, saying that it ran afoul of the federal Marriage
Act, which limits marriage to heterosexual couples.
court invalidates ACT marriages of gay couples.)
Rodney Croome, the national director
for Australian Marriage Equality, said that allowing a free vote
would boost the chances of passage.
“With a cross-party conscience vote,
reform has a fighting chance, but the outcome at this stage is very
unpredictable,” Croome told BloombergBusineesweek.
“That's why it's so important that people who support reform in
each of the different parties work together.”
Tanya Plibersek of the opposition Labor
Party has pledged to introduce a same-sex marriage bill if
legislators are allowed a free vote.
“Mr. Abbott moved to stop same-sex
marriage in the ACT and the High Court has said it's for Federal
Parliament to decide,” Plibersek told The
Age. “So now, the prime minister needs to give his MPs a
conscience vote on this issue so that the national Parliament can do