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Senate inquiry chance to have say on gay marriage: Greens

A Senate inquiry into same-sex marriage will allow the public to make their views heard on a proposal to amend the Marriage Act and is ''a winnable way forward'' for the issue, advocates say.

The Australian Greens announced yesterday they would refer their 2010 Bill supporting same-sex marriage to a Senate committee for investigation in the first sitting week of federal Parliament in February.

Such inquiries usually take several months to complete and take written submissions and oral evidence.

Greens marriage equality spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the inquiry would give the Australian community a chance to try and convince undecided or opposed MPs why the change should happen.

''This is an issue that's been debated throughout the community and now the community is streets and streets ahead of the elected representatives,'' she said in Canberra yesterday.

''I'm convinced that if people are given the arguments ... if we can deal with the very real concerns that some people still have, that we can alleviate those, amend the Bill if need be, and get it through.''

The Australian Labor Party national conference in December endorsed changing the definition of marriage to allow same-sex unions. But it also voted in favour of allowing MPs a conscience vote on the issue if it came to Parliament, leaving any Bill vulnerable to being voted down by conservative Labor politicians.

The federal Coalition did not plan to allow its MPs a conscience vote on the issue, meaning it would be doomed to fail.