Liberal MP’s secret same-sex marriage bill

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WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith has for the first time revealed he is secretly drafting a private members’ bill to legalise same sex marriage in Australia, declaring “the time is now” to resolve an issue which he says has become an “embarrassment” for the nation.

The bombshell confirms weeks of speculation in Canberra that there were new attempts within the federal Liberal Party to bring about a conscience vote on same-sex marriage in the parliament, despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s insistence it would be determined by a plebiscite.

Senator Smith, an openly gay politician, said the bill was well advanced and he intended taking it to the party room for discussion in the near future, after which he hoped a parliamentary vote would be taken before the end of this year.

He said the bill would allow exemptions for religious and other celebrants who did not want to allow two people of the same sex to marry.

“The bill is important because it will allow the Liberal Party to revisit the issue of marriage once and for all before the next election,” Senator Smith told The Sunday Times.

“I don’t doubt the complexity same-sex-marriage presents for some Liberals, but I am not asking people to change their mind on the issue.

“Instead, we should allow everyone the right to vote according to their own conscience. The coalition’s position is clear – a plebiscite – so people should not underestimate the challenge of securing a free vote on the issue.

“But there is a sensible way forward. As dry as it seems, the Senate’s report into the Government’s own draft marriage bill released as part of its plebiscite proposal plan is the blueprint for the bill and the most likely pathway for success.

“I believe – and I am confident many other Australians share my view – that people’s religious views about marriage deserve to be protected at the same time as we provide for same-sex marriage.”

Mr Turnbull, a supporter of same-sex marriage, was last month forced to publicly rule out a parliamentary vote on the issue in this term after damaging audio emerged of senior minister Christopher Pyne saying a policy change on gay marriage would come “sooner than everyone thinks”.

Pyne apologises

“We will not support a vote on gay marriage in the parliament until there has been a plebiscite, and that plebiscite is voted ‘yes’ for gay marriage,” Mr Turnbull said.

The fact one of the Liberal Party’s own, Senator Smith, is now declaring he will take a private members bill to the party room with the aim of securing a vote in the federal parliament threatens to re-ignite the same-sex marriage furore in Canberra and increase pressure on the PM.

Senator Smith declined to comment on whether any Cabinet Ministers, or Mr Turnbull, were aware of the details of his new approach. He also denied this was just an issue for gays and lesbians.

“This is not an academic or theoretical issue,” he said.

“This goes to the heart of how some Australians could be free to live their lives according to their own choices.

‘This is not about gays and lesbians. It is about respecting our humanity and it extends to the friends and families of gay and lesbian Australians. The electorate is the best gauge of authenticity and my sense is that people are embarrassed that Australia has not resolved this issue.

“Many do support the matter being put before the parliament and finally resolved. The time is now.”



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