Despite Australia being one of the most gay-friendly nations in the world, marriage equality has remained elusive.
That may soon change with news that the county’s Parliament may again vote on the issue.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Senator David Leyonhjelm is planning to introduce a draft bill to legalise same-sex marriage.
Significantly, government MPs in the Liberal Party may, for the first time, be allowed a conscience vote in the federal Parliament if and when the matter comes up.
“I have heard from Liberal senators that a conscience vote is highly likely,” said Senator Leyonhjelm.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is opposed to same-sex marriage rights but a conscience vote would allow lawmakers to vote on the basis of their personal views rather than on party lines.
An unnamed MP told the newspaper: “I don’t think even Tony Abbott will stand up in the party room and argue against a conscience vote. It would appear to go against Liberal principles.”
The bill may be introduced within the next two months. It remains unclear if there is sufficient support in Parliament to pass it, however.
Gay marriage does have the support of the majority of Australians, with 72% in favour.
“It’s impossible to say if marriage equality would pass right now because too many MPs have yet to declare their hand,” commented Rodney Croome, National Director of the Australian Marriage Equality organisation.
“But the Australian public is definitely ready for this reform and we are working with supporters across the country to win over the hearts and minds of MPs and Senators.”
“We are determined to ensure the numbers are there before there is a vote on Senator Leyonhjlem’s bill, or any other bill,” he said.
Efforts by individual Australian states to legalise same-sex marriage have been stymied by a 2004 amendment to the federal Marriage Act that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others.