Malcolm Turnbull

Hopes grow for same sex marriage reform

A woman cycles past a marriage equality mural in Dublin. Brian Lawless/PA Wire Source: Getty Images

Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull says he expects parliament will legalise same-sex marriage before the end of the year.  

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull says he expects parliament will legalise same-sex marriage before the end of the year.

Debate on a bill is to begin mid-June after Senator Sarah Hanson-Young announced plans for the Greens to use Senate time on June 18 to start debate on her private member's bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

Any vote on the issue is likely to fail until coalition MPs are allowed a conscience vote.

But, as Amanda Cavill reports, Mr Turnbull says rapidly changing community attitudes to same-sex marriage are likely to ensure the move will ultimately succeed.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is under increased pressure to allow a free vote within the Liberal Party on gay marriage by the end of the year.

Mr Abbott has repeatedly declined to allow his frontbench a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, leading to the defeat of legislation in 2012.

However, the success of a referendum in Ireland to amend its constitution on the issue has led to calls for another parliamentary debate.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told the ABC he thinks a conscience vote, and success, is in sight.

"I'm confident the matter will be dealt with in the course of this year and of course it depends on we obviously need a bill. There is a change in sentiment all the time. As I said, I have never seen a social issue on which attitudes have changed as rapidly as this one. So my feeling is that it is very likely to pass. I think it becomes more likely all the time. I certainly support there being a free vote, and if there is a free vote, I would vote in favour."

The Greens are citing the success in Ireland to force the issue here as soon as possible.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young says she will bring forward a private member's bill for debate in mid-June and wants a Senate vote on it on November the 12th.

"This gives members of all parties the opportunity to think about how they will vote on this issue but the impetus for Tony Abbott to allow his party room the opportunity to have a free vote, to vote with their hearts as well as their heads. It is a really wonderful step forward."

Ivan Hilton, from advocacy group Marriage Equality, says the vote in Ireland shows there is a real way forward.

Mr Hilton says he hopes all politicians in Canberra will take note of the result and vote accordingly.

"Ireland is a wonderful example for Australia to follow in recognising that there is majority support for marriage equality, in a very Catholic nation marriage equality was achieved on a vote of two to one. In Australia, support for marriage equality is even higher. There is absolutely no reason why our MPs and our senators should be concerned about progressing this issue and progressing it now."

Assistant Education Minister Simon Birmingham says the Irish referendum is another sign to Australia there is strong public support in Western countries for gay marriage.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane says while it's not a top priority for the government he is open to having the issue discussed in the Liberal party room.

"When it comes to the party room I'll listen to the debate really. It's what the party room decides in the end. And whether it's a conscience vote, whether it's a decision that's taken by the party room and then a vote after that. Let's have that discussion in the party room. I'm quite open to the discussion."

Labor policy supports gay marriage but allows MPs and senators a conscience vote.

The current Coalition policy is to oppose gay marriage, but Mr Abbott says if enough of the party room wants a conscience vote, he will permit it.

He has ruled out a referendum, as was held in Ireland.





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