Staunch conservatives, and most of the rest of Australia, oppose Tony Abbott on gay marriage

Tony Abbott is opposed to same-sex marriage.
Tony Abbott is opposed to same-sex marriage.
Image: Reuters/Peter Barnes
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Warren Entsch, a motorbike-riding, bull-catching Australian MP who represents one of Australia’s most conservative electorates, introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Australia today (Aug. 17).

Although self-described as the “least likely” supporter of marriage equality, his bill is backed by opposition party members from Australia’s Labor Party, The Greens, and other independent MPs.

It is also backed by a vast majority of Australians, 69% of whom now support gay marriage, according to data compiled by Crosby Textor and Fairfax Ipsos:

Unfortunately for most Australians, and particularly the more than 33,000 same sex couples in Australia who may want to get married—including Tony Abbott’s gay sister, Christine Forster, a vocal supporter of marriage equality who is engaged to her partner, Virginia—the bill has little chance of being passed, or even voted on.

Last week, after six hours of heated debate, the ruling Liberal National Party Coalition government, led by prime minister Tony Abbott, effectively denied Australian gays the right to legally wed until the present government’s term of office expires.

Abbott, a conservative Catholic who once studied for the priesthood, told the Australian parliament that the party had decided against a “conscience vote.”

“By a very strong majority, essentially by two to one, we (the Coalition) decided to confirm our existing position, the position that we took to the election that marriage was between a man and a woman for this term of parliament,” he declared.

Abbott said the question should instead be put to the people of Australia after the next election. This would be either through a simple majority yes or no vote, called a plebiscite, or a more complicated constitutional referendum, which requires a yes vote from the majority of people in a majority of Australian states to pass.

The earliest scheduled date for Australia’s next federal election is August 2016. Barring any change of leadership that may result from Abbott’s insistence on this issue (which can’t be ruled out given his recent dismal polling results), the chances of Australia’s gays being able to legally marry before this date are slim.