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Hopes that Ireland's marriage equality vote would spread worldwide have suffered a setback

Ireland’s referendum has been a feature of the Australian debate.

For a brief period, same-sex couples could marry in Canberra in 2013 until the law was struck down by the High Court.
For a brief period, same-sex couples could marry in Canberra in 2013 until the law was struck down by the High Court.
Image: Rob Griffith

THE MOVEMENT FOR same-sex marriage in Australia has been dealt a blow after the ruling coalition decided against giving its members a free vote on the issue.

The opposition Labor Party has been seeking to legislate for same-sex marriage with politicians in favour of it pushing their parties for a free vote.

A free vote would allow government members to support an opposition bill.

The ruling coalition, led by the Liberal Party, met today to discuss whether to allow a free vote. Following the six hour meeting, Prime Minster Tony Abbott announced that this would not be permitted.

“There was strong support for the existing position, strong support for the position that the coalition has held since 2004, that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said.

Abbott argued that the view his party held ahead of the 2013 election should be held throughout the term of government.

“The last thing you should do is doubt the people that voted for you,” he said.

Abbott said that 90 coalition members spoke during the meeting, 60 of whom backed the current policy while 30 wanted a free vote.

Tweet by @ABC News Source: ABC News/Twitter

He added that “quite a number” who supported a free vote said they would reject same-sex marriage if it came down to a vote anyway.

Abbott, who opposes same-sex marriage, did say that the prevailing view amongst party members was that the issue should be put to the Australian people in the next term of government.

Australian people

“I’ve come to the view, I believe this is the party room view, that this is the last term in which the coalition party room can be bound, although we will definitely maintain the current position for the life of this term,” Abbott said.

“Going into the next election, we will finalise another position. The disposition of the party room this evening is that our position going into the next election should be that in a subsequent term of parliament, this is a matter that should rightly be put to the Australian people.”

The Prime Minister said he was proud of all those who spoke during the meeting.

“Whatever side of this issue they were on, they spoke well with humanity, with identity, with compassion and with an understanding that this was a serious issue that had to be dealt with very seriously indeed.”

“I accept that this is not just like any other policy that a coalition may adopt from time to time, it is deeply personal,” he added.

Abbott’s Liberal Party previously shared the same view on the issue of same-sex marriage as Labor Party who subsequently changed their view.

The issue has been on the Australian political agenda but was given extra impetus by Ireland’s vote for marriage equality. Australian LGBT advocates argue that theirs is now the only English-speaking developed country to ban same-sex marriage.

Read: “These are people who can’t grow potatoes” – Ireland dragged into Australia’s gay marriage debate >

Read: An Australian documentary about the marriage referendum has been getting a huge response >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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