Labor MPs Will Have A Conscience Vote On Marriage Equality Until 2019
A last-minute deal struck between Labor's left and right factions ensures members of parliament will have a conscience vote for this term and the next.
The highly-anticipated marriage equality discussion at Labor's national conference has ended with a last-minute deal ensuring Labor MPs will have a conscience vote on the issue until 2019.
After weeks of debate about whether Labor should bind on the issue, the compromise was struck in the dying throes of Labor's three-day conference.
Labor's left faction had initially been pushing for a binding vote to commence at the end of the current parliamentary term, a resolution opposed by Labor Right.
The compromise was moved by leader Bill Shorten and seconded by deputy Tanya Plibersek.
The resolution stated a conscience vote on marriage equality would be rescinded upon the commencement of the 46th parliament, which is most likely to be in 2019.
Speaking in favour of the reform, Shorten and Plibersek focused on calling for prime minister Tony Abbott to grant his MPs a free vote in the current term.
Shorten promised to move a bill within 100 days of a Labor government he leads coming into power, if marriage equality has not yet been legislated.
"Marriage equality is a simple overdue change that sends a powerful message," he said. "It is our chance to say as a nation to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians your love is equal under the law."
Senator Penny Wong gave a powerful speech, saying she supported the motion and that marriage equality should never have been an issue of conscience at all.
Wong, who is gay, spoke about having to vote for "her own discrimination" in 2004, when the Marriage Act was amended to explicitly exclude same-sex couples from marrying.
Wong said she wanted to see marriage equality legislated in the current parliament, saying "There is nothing to fear from equality".
"Marriage equality is a campaign of hope. It is a campaign of justice, equality...and for those we love," she said.
Despite near-unanimous support for the motion, there is internal frustration among members of Rainbow Labor, who wanted Labor to adopt a binding vote at the next federal election.
Rodney Croome, national director of Australian Marriage Equality, said the decision "increased pressure" on Abbott to allow Coalition MPs a free vote.
Currently, government MPs must vote against marriage equality, meaning a bill would have no chance of passing the Australian parliament.
"We believe marriage equality is achievable in this term of government through a cross-party conscience vote," said Croome.
"Our campaign will continue to be directed towards the Coalition allowing a free vote and getting the numbers on the floor of parliament."