Opinion

Debate over same-sex marriage bill

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November 13, 2017

Same-sex marriage could be debated in the Federal Parliament this week if the postal survey returns a ‘‘yes’’ result and advocates have their way.

Same-sex marriage could be debated in the Federal Parliament this week if the postal survey returns a ‘‘yes’’ result and advocates have their way.

Nearly eight in 10 Australians who received survey forms have had their say, with a result to be announced at 10am on Wednesday, leaving politicians scrambling to predict the next move.

‘‘If there’s a yes vote on Wednesday, there will be a private member’s bill, which will be facilitated by the government coming forward for a vote on the floor of the parliament,’’ Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne said yesterday.

It will then be up to the parliament whether a bill is passed by Christmas.

‘‘(Senator) Dean Smith’s bill is as good a bill as any to start the debate,’’ Mr Pyne said.

Senator Smith confirmed that he would introduce his same-sex marriage bill, first proposed in August, on Thursday if the ‘‘yes’’ vote was successful.

‘‘Australians will not tolerate delay,’’ Senator Smith said.

Deputy government leader in the Senate, Mathias Cormann, said he would like the issue resolved before Christmas.

‘‘In the end, we’re in the hands of the parliament, but there won’t be a government position in relation to the bill,’’ he told reporters in Perth.

Only the upper house is sitting this week, while both houses will return on November 27 for two weeks. More than a dozen conservative Coalition politicians are reportedly working on their own version of a same-sex marriage bill — with greater religious protections and exemptions.

Liberal backbencher Julian Leeser does not favour same-sex marriage, but will respect the wishes of the Australian people.

But he says there does have to be a debate about four issues about which religious communities are concerned.

‘‘The right to preach, the right to teach, the right to provide services and employment rights. And those are things that will have to be considered in the context of any legislation that comes forward in the next few weeks,’’ Mr Leeser said.

In contrast, Senator Smith’s private member’s bill is specifically about allowing two people to marry and does not deal with freedom of speech, freedom of religion or parental rights.

Twenty-two bills dealing with same-sex marriage have been introduced in the parliament since 2004.

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