The Australian state of Queensland is set to legalise civil unions.

Premier Anna Bligh is to allow her MPs a free vote on the matter and has said she expects an “overwhelming” majority to vote in favour.

She said today: “I’m sure there will be some members of the Labor Party who will be examining their conscience and may take a different view than I do, but I would be surprised if we don’t see an overwhelming majority of Labor members support the bill.”

Deputy premier Andrew Fraser is to introduce the Civil Partnerships Bill this evening.

Urging opposition MPs to back the move, Ms Bligh asked them to recall their wedding days, saying: “Why would we deny this experience to others?”

Liberal National Party leader Campbell Newman is on record for supporting full marriage equality, has not yet said whether he will allow MPs a conscience vote.