Abbott government opponents of legalising same-sex marriage are resisting attempts to bring on a cross-party bill, with one accusing colleagues of ambush tactics.
Liberal frontbencher Concetta Fierravanti-Wells is among a group of Coalition MPs rallying against amending the Marriage Act.
“Any change of this magnitude requires appropriate consultation and not the sort of ambush approach some of my colleagues have chosen to take,” she told ABC radio on Thursday.
Liberal Warren Entsch, backed by colleague Teresa Gambaro, is planning to introduce marriage equality legislation to parliament in August.
Whether the bill – backed by several Labor MPs, the Greens, and independents Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan – is debated in the lower house is up to a selection committee.
One of its members, Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic, argues that it won’t be on the agenda any time soon.
“Anyone who thinks that this should be prioritised over economic or national security issues has rocks in their head,” he said.
Cabinet minister Senator Eric Abetz denies there is widespread support for legalising same-sex marriage, warning it could open a “Pandora’s box” and lead to polygamy.
Abetz implied that ministers who supported gay marriage should resign, citing his decision to quit the opposition frontbench in 2009 over support for an emissions trading scheme.
“As a frontbencher you have to support party policy,” he told Sky News.
Senate colleague Cory Bernardi, a staunch opponent of change, believes the government shouldn’t be sidetracked by the issue.
“If my colleagues choose to participate with Labor and the Greens in derailing the government’s agenda, that’s up to them, but I wouldn’t be endorsing it,” he told ABC radio.
But Liberal backbencher Ewen Jones, who backs a free vote on the issue, called for the bill to be debated as quickly as possible, rather than pulling the bandaid off “one hair at a time”.
Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said it was unfortunate the prime minister kept “putting up different obstacles to marriage equality coming to a vote” .
Tony Abbott, who remains opposed to same-sex marriage, has said the joint coalition party room would only consider private bills if they were to be voted on in parliament, which is a rare event.
His sister Christine Forster, a Liberal Sydney city councillor, hopes the issue is dealt with soon, warning there could be consequences at the polls for the coalition.
“Why would we want to get into a federal election campaign in which we are perceived by 70 per cent of the electorate as being the road block to a reform,” she told 2GB radio.
Opposition MP Terri Butler, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, hopes more MPs will come out in favour of change, saying it had cross-party support”.
The Australian Christian Lobby warned against the redefining marriage, arguing children should have a mother and a father.
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