Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is facing a revolt as members of his government publicly push for a free vote in Parliament to legalise same-sex marriage as early as next week.
On Monday, openly gay Liberal MP Trevor Evans told the Australian that moderate MPs are looking at ways to legalise same-sex marriage.
“There is a still a number of ways to achieve reform, but I think the quickest and most likely course now is to allow politicians to have a free vote … and I support that.”
“I am talking with colleagues, quite a number of colleagues, about different options that sit in front of us at the moment.”
Of crossing the floor to help the Labor Party introduce a bill to change the marriage act and bring on a free vote, he said “I am not ruling anything out… there is a number of ways that things can be brought onto the floor in order to have a vote.”
Victorian MP Tim Wilson told Sky News he supports a parliamentary free vote, saying “When it comes down to it, it’s in the best interests of the country for this issue to be resolved.”
“I always said politely that the plebiscite wasn’t my first preference for a way to deal with this issue.”
Openly gay MP Dean Smith is drafting a private members bill to legalise same-sex marriage, which the Herald Sun reports will be sent to all MPs this week, with plans to discuss the bill in the Liberal Party room next week. If the Liberal party doesn’t support a free vote to resolve the issue, the MPs behind the bill are prepared to cross the floor to bring on a vote.
Four government MPs need to cross the floor to help the Labor Party bring on a free vote.
On Monday, Smith wrote an opinion piece for the Australian Financial Review, stating his belief that the government can no longer afford to delay marriage equality, pointing out that Australia is the only English-speaking democracy not to legalise same-sex marriage.
"The government should not feel obligated to commit political suicide by handing its opponents a massive political cudgel by allowing the question of marriage equality to remain unresolved and fester over the next two years," he wrote.
"Australian voters are perplexed about why so much time and energy is being expended on an issue where the community attitude is now crystal clear and why the government would continue to harm itself by delaying a free vote."
While Turnbull supports marriage equality and a free vote, he has stuck with the failed plebiscite policy and continues to blame Labor for Australia's failure to achieve marriage equality. He hasn’t given his opinion on a postal plebiscite, floated recently by right wing MPs who do not want to allow a free vote.
Asked on Monday about MPs crossing the floor, he said “In our party, backbenchers have always had the right to cross the floor.”
On Tuesday the Herald Sun quoted a senior conservative Liberal threatening Turnbull’s job if he allows MPs to cross the floor. “It’s terminal. If Turnbull can’t control the moderates, what’s the point of his prime ministership?”
The Herald Sun reports that conservatives are planning to replace Turnbull with Peter Dutton and Greg Hunt as his deputy if he drops plans for a plebiscite.
Executive Director of Australian Marriage Equality, Tiernan Brady, said "We thank Brisbane MP Trevor Evans and Senator Dean Smith and all the parliamentary supporters of marriage equality for their commitment to fairness, equality and resolving this issue in the Parliament.”
Parliament resumes next Tuesday.