Same-sex marriage: Conservative MPs prepare bill with stronger ‘religious protections’

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A group of conservative-leaning MPs, including some who publically voted ‘no’ in the government’s postal survey, are drafting their own version of a bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

Liberal backbencher Ian Goodenough has revealed he is among “probably more than a dozen” members working on the alternative bill.

Conservatives have voiced concerns that the pre-existing bill drafted by moderate Liberals, sponsored by Dean Smith, does not include adequate protections for groups that may continue to oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds after the law is changed.

“I believe that the bill is focused on the wedding ceremony itself, but it doesn't go further than that,” Mr Goodenough told ABC Radio on Thursday.

The Smith bill would allow churches to refuse to marry homosexual couples.

But Mr Goodenough said there were not enough protections for schools, parents and religious charities, which he said could risk violating anti-discrimination laws for voicing opposition to same-sex marriage unless there are specific exemptions in the new law.

He said religious schools should be allowed to “teach their students about the traditional view of marriage without necessarily having to provide the full spectrum of views on marriage”.

WA Liberal MP Andrew Hastie is reportedly also in the group. “Of course people on the No side of the debate are discussing what protections would look like if a Yes vote is returned in November,” Mr Hastie said in September.

Supporters of same-sex marriage have accused the conservative wing of the party of delaying tactics.

Queensland Liberal MP Warren Entsch, who helped draft the Smith bill, said Mr Goodenough and his allies were trying to “kick the can down the road”.

He warned there would be “very little tolerance within the Australian public” if conservatives were seen to be trying to stall the process after a ‘yes’ win.

Mr Entsch also said the Smith bill had taken “a lot of consideration” over eight-12 months, whereas the new bill was being “rushed”.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he hopes to legalise same-sex marriage before Christmas if the yes vote wins, but the debate on amendments could delay the vote.

"It'll take several weeks to get even a dozen amendments through if they're contentious," Mr Goodenough told ABC radio.

"So suddenly it'll be very difficult and challenging to get the required number of detailed amendments through before parliament rises."

Parliament is scheduled to rise for the year on December 7 after a final fortnight of sittings.

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