Popular momentum for marriage equality has been growing in Australia in recent months, especially following its legalization in Ireland and the United States.
Yet despite polls indicated more than 72% support for same-sex marriage, Prime Minister Tony Abbott's ruling Liberal-National Coalition government has maintained official opposition to the legislation and barred their Members of Parliament from voting in its favor. The demand for a free conscience vote has, therefore, become the focus of marriage equality proponents Down Under.
After a five hour debate today, conservatives within the ruling party voted, yet again, against allowing for such a vote of conscience, by a margin of 66:33.
While an undesired outcome, that 33 members of the ruling party were willing to vote against leaders has reinforced hopes of eventual success. Rodney Coome, national director of Australian Marriage Equality had this response to the news:
"If only some of those 33 could vote for marriage equality we'd achieve reform tomorrow. Clearly, opponents of marriage equality in the Coalition know they don't have the numbers on the floor of the house or they wouldn't be so scared of a free vote."
"We urge supporters of marriage equality in parliament to press ahead with legislation in both houses and we urge Coalition members to be brave and cross the floor."
While Members of Parliament are free to vote differently from their party, they run the risk of being accused of disloyalty, and Ministers would likely be forced to resign from their positions. Members of the opposition have announced that they will introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage next week. Time will tell if enough members of the Liberal-National Coalition are brave enough to break party lines and vote for what's right.