Social services minister Scott Morrison has said people who don't support marriage equality should not be labelled homophobes.
"I think there are a range of options that haven't been ventilated," he said on 2GB radio this morning.
"If you say that you don't get on board with the same-sex marriage bandwagon, then somehow you're a homophobe. I don't think that's very helpful."
Morrison also suggested that a redefinition of marriage in which there are civil unions at a federal level and only religious bodies conduct marriages could be a preferable solution.
"[There's] the presumption that there's only one answer to this question too, that same-sex marriage under the Marriage Act is the only answer," he said.
Morrison also said Australians need more time to think about the marriage equality debate, which has been running for over a decade.
"I think it's time for people to have a bit of a breather about this and consider what the other options are," he said.
"Rather than lecturing everybody about what should be done, and when it should be done and what it should look like… I think there should be time for the country to think about this, for politicians to think about it."
Morrison believes "the broader Australian community" has not yet had the opportunity to consider all the options.
"Whatever the outcome is, I would hope this wouldn't be a thing that tears the country apart," he said.
Recent polls have consistently shown that support for marriage equality in Australia enjoys a clear majority, with some polls showing approval could be as high as 72%.
Rodney Croome, national director of Australian Marriage Equality, slammed Morrison's comments, saying marriage equality opponents were panicking in the face of community support.
"What we are seeing with proposals to abolish legal marriage, conduct a plebiscite or block a free vote in the Coalition are opponents of marriage equality panicking in the face of the inevitable growth of support within parliament and the community," he said.
Croome also criticised Morrison's suggestion of moving to a system in which only civil unions would be solemnised under federal law and marriage left to religious bodies, which both Morrison and Liberal MP Phillip Ruddock said was akin to the French system of marriage.
However, Croome said the pair had "misconstrued" marriage in France.
"Philip Ruddock and Scott Morrison... seem to be proposing the complete abolition of legal marriage, which is definitely not what has happened in France, or any other country for that matter."
"We find it appalling that defenders of traditional marriage would prefer to wreck the institution than allow same-sex couples to marry."
Morrison's comments come after a week of heated debate over marriage equality, in which opposition leader Bill Shorten introduced a bill pushing for reform into the House of Representatives.
Although Shorten's bill was ignored by the Coalition, currently focusing on its budget measures, a cross party approach to the reform could be on the cards after the parliamentary winter break.
However, some Liberal MPs told Fairfax Media marriage equality is "not inevitable" and could result in a backlash against Abbott if he allows a cross-party reform to go forward.