Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the Coalition Government will either allow a free vote on same-sex marriage or put the question to the people if re-elected for another term.
“I’ve come to the view… that this is the last term in which the Coalition party room can be bound, although we will definitely maintain the current position for the life of this term,” Mr Abbott said in a press conference from Canberra around 10pm.
“It is deeply personal… It is a subject on which decent people can differ. And it is a subject on which people can differ even inside political parties.”
He said the Coalition would “finalise a new position” before the next election, but the matter should “rightly be put to the Australian people” – whether by plebiscite or constitutional referendum.
“It’s not an especially complex piece of policy. It is pretty instinctive whether or not you support the concept of same sex marriage… and this is quite properly something that should be decided by the Australian people.”
Mr Abbott said around 60 frontbenchers and 30 backbenchers spoke in the six-hour special meeting, with around 30 MPs voting in favour of a free vote. He said of the 30, around 12 said despite wanting a free vote, they would still vote against marriage equality.
“I have to say I was proud of my colleagues,” Mr Abbott said.
“All of them, whichever side of this issue they were on, spoke well with humanity, with decency, with compassion, with an understanding that this is a serious issue that needed to be dealt with very seriously indeed.”
He said the Liberal stance that marriage was between a man and a woman was a “long and sometimes contentious hard-fought issue” and there was a strong feeling in the party room that if the party altered their position “a lot of people who voted for us were going to feel dudded”.
Mamamia previously wrote:
An overwhelming majority of government MPs have voted against having a free vote on same-sex marriage during this term of parliament.
After a five-and-a-half hour special meeting, Coalition MPs have emerged with around 70 in favour of a binding vote against marriage equality and 32 in favour of a conscience vote, News Limited reports.
It was believed that had a free vote been allowed, the legislation may have passed – with the frontbench believed to have been split 50/50 on the issue.
Last month, Labor leader Bill Shorten pledged to move to legalise same-sex marriage in his first 100 days if he becomes prime minister.
Federal Labor MPs agreed to be bound to vote in favour of marriage equality, but not for another two elections.
Tonight’s result has led to speculation the Abbott Government may promise a referendum on the issue as part of his election campaign next year.
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