Australia’s Senate will hold an opposition debate same-sex marriage on Thursday – after the issue was blocked from coming to a vote.

Lobbying groups say there is currently a majority of MPs and Senators in favour of equal marriage, but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition has refused a free vote on the issue and blocked it from coming to a vote.

Mr Turnbull instead tabled plans for a plebiscite – a public voting procedure which could potentially stall the issue until 2017 or beyond.

Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm, a supporter of equal marriage, had attempted a political manoeuvre last week to force a vote on the issue.

Leyonhjelm would have required cooperation from the opposition Labor Party and the Greens to bring about a vote – but after the Greens sided with the government to keep the vote off the table, the two parties have resorted to trading jibes.

A one-hour opposition debate on the issue will now be held on Thursday – but given the complexity of equal marriage, it is unlikely to come to a vote within the time frame.

According to the Guardian, Labor’s Penny Wong, said: “[The Greens] had an opportunity [to bring it to a vote] this morning, and they squibbed it, and they now want to make Australians believe that somehow an hour-long debate is somehow the same.

“This is cynical politics at its best. Senator Di Natale led them over to the other side to sit with people like Senator Abetz and Senator Bernardi who are vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage.

“It is a sort of combination of spinelessness and incompetence if I may say so.”

Greens leader Richard Di Natale replied: “These are crocodile tears. This is cynical wedge politics.”

He added of the debate: “We think that there’s a great opportunity here that, if the numbers are there, that we can bring this on for a vote.”

Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said: “A majority of Senators have already publicly declared their support for marriage equality so the legislation could pass if a free vote was allowed.”

“If marriage equality passes the Senate it will increase pressure on the Government to allow Parliament to do its job and pass the reform as soon as possible.”

“It will also send an affirmative message to the Australian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community, and a message to the world that we are moving toward an overdue reform.”