MPs to debate same-sex marriage bill

The lower house will begin debating Stephen Jones' gay marriage bill later today.
The lower house will begin debating Stephen Jones' gay marriage bill later today.

A bill to legalise same-sex marriage will be debated in Parliament for the first time today, sparking concerns by the  Greens that the government may be trying to bring on an early vote in an attempt to push the politically fraught topic off the agenda.

Labor MP Stephen Jones’ Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 will be debated for half an hour this evening in the lower house. It is one of three same-sex marriage bills  before Federal Parliament.

Greens MP Adam Bandt said this morning that he was worried the debate would be unduly pushed through the House of Representatives.

‘‘I am concerned that the government is trying to bring this on for debate and push it to an early vote so that Tony Abbott is not brought under any more pressure to grant a conscience vote,’’ he said.

He urged Prime Minister Julia Gillard to ‘‘show leadership’’ and change her position on the issue to make sure she was not on the ‘‘wrong side of history’’, citing US President Barack Obama’s recent change of heart in supporting same-sex marriage.

‘‘We have to make sure we do not fast-track a debate in the House of Reps only to see the vote lose in an attempt to get it off the election agenda,’’ Mr Bandt said.

A recent poll by  Galaxy Research - commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality - showed support for same-sex marriage at 64 per cent, which was the highest level since polling on the topic began in 2009.

The same research reported that 52 per cent of Coalition voters were in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, with 44 per cent of voters more likely to throw their support behind Mr Abbott if there were a Coalition conscience vote on the marriage equality bills.

Mr Jones introduced his private member’s bill in February.

Despite the ALP  changing its party platform  to support same-sex marriage at its national conference in December, Ms Gillard has refused to give the bill caucus support.

She has granted MPs a conscience vote, which is destined to lead to failure  as the Coalition has vowed to oppose the bill.

This story MPs to debate same-sex marriage bill first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.