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Australian PM will ‘never’ allow equal marriage, opponent claims

Nick Duffy August 12, 2015

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 11: Prime Minister Tony Abbott during House of Representatives question time at Parliament House on August 11, 2015 in Canberra, Australia. Tony Smith was elected Speaker on 10, August following the resignation of Bronwyn Bishop. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Australia’s opposition leader Bill Shorten has reacted angrily, after government MPs were banned from voting for same-sex marriage.

A number same-sex marriage bills are heading to the Australian Parliament this month, and Mr Shorten’s Labor MPs have been granted a conscience vote.

However, Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott – a strong opponent of same-sex marriage – did not step in to afford his own MPs a conscience vote.

It was confirmed yesterday that his ruling coalition voted by 66 to 33 in favour of banning MPs from voting for equality – ordering them to follow party line and oppose same-sex marriage. The decision means the measure is now nearly impossible to pass, unless large numbers of MPs openly defy their own party.

Mr Shorten reacted: “Millions of Australians will have woken up this morning bitterly disappointed with Tony Abbott.”

“The choice in this country is clear – you either have Tony Abbott or you have marriage equality, you can’t have both.”

Meanwhile, Abbott insisted he would take the issue to a public vote after the next election – a clearly redundant measure, given polling puts support for same-sex marriage upwards of 70 percent.

He claimed: The only way to successfully and satisfactorily settle this matter, given that it is so personal and given that so many people have strong feelings on either side of this – the only way to settle it with the least rancor, if you like, is to ask the people to make a choice.

“That means that going into the next election, you’ll have the Labor Party which wants it to go to a Parliamentary vote and you’ve got the coalition that wants it to go to a people’s vote.”

A public vote on the issue is likely to delay the first weddings for several years – potentially leaving loving couples banned from marrying until as late as 2020.

By contrast, if Abbott had forced a free vote, the first weddings could have begun by the end of the year.

More: Australia, Bill Shorten, civil partnership, civil union, equal marriage, Gay, gay weddings, lesbian, lesbian wedding, LGBT, marriage, marriage equality, mp, same sex weddings, Tony Abbott, Union, wedding

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