Federal Politics

Same-sex marriage: Labor's Terri Butler pushes to bring on early parliamentary vote

Labor will try and bring on a parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage in a bid to bypass a plebiscite and force Coalition MPs to take a stand on the issue.  

Opposition frontbencher Terri Butler said she would attempt to bring the cross-party same-sex marriage bill on for further debate and then a vote "soon". This could be within the next few sitting weeks.  

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However, this would require a majority of MPs in the lower house first agreeing to move to this stage of the process - which is unlikely, given the Coalition's policy of having a plebiscite before a parliamentary vote. 

Ms Butler, who holds Kevin Rudd's former seat of Griffith, said recent revelations by some Coalition MPs that they would not be bound by the result of a plebiscite justified her decision. 

Terri Butler listens as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks on gender equality during question time on Tuesday.
Terri Butler listens as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks on gender equality during question time on Tuesday. Photo: Andrew Meares

"In other words, Liberals and Nationals intend to exercise a free vote," she said on Tuesday evening. 

"If it's to be a free vote anyway, then what are we waiting for?" 


Ms Butler's plan comes after Australian Marriage Equality said by its count, there is now a slim majority of MPs who support same-sex marriage in both the lower and upper houses - provided the Liberal Party was allowed a free vote on the issue.  

It also follows Australian Marriage Equality-commissioned polling in key Nationals seats showing that voters oppose the idea of a plebiscite - which would cost an estimated $160 million - and support Parliament resolving the issue

Attorney-General George Brandis is working on wording for a plebiscite, which is due to go before cabinet in about two weeks' time. It would then go to the Coalition party room for approval. 

Labor has been calling on the government to dump the plebiscite - which would be held after the next federal election - arguing "marriage equality should just happen". 

On Monday, Ms Butler said that making same-sex marriage an election issue or the subject of a plebiscite would have "real world consequences". 

"Kids will see placards and taxpayer funded advertising claiming that their parents shouldn't be allowed to marry. That sends a message that their family is somehow inferior.  

"Some of the material and slogans that we've seen in similar plebiscites overseas have been degrading and disgusting," she said.   

The cross-party bill was introduced last August by a group of MPs across Parliament, led by the Coalition's Warren Entsch. 

Ms Butler - one of the seven sponsors of the bill - had not informed Mr Entsch of her plan to bring the debate back on. 

Mr Entsch has been contacted for comment. 

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