By: Paul Goldberg, Staff Writer
Australia’s ruling party will once again attempt to resolve their bitter internal differences over the debate of same-sex marriage at a special meeting which was held Monday.
The ruling party is desperate to find a policy agreement on same-sex marriage as it is being considered a test of prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s agenda. Making matters worse is the fact that the ruling party has trailed the center-left opposition Labor Party over the past several months in opinion polls.
The conservative Liberal Party-led coalition narrowly was re-elected at elections last July with a promise to let voters decide whether Australia should recognize same-sex marriage through a popular vote.
Liberal Senator. Dean Smith, a gay man who opposed legalizing same-sex marriage when he was appointed to the Senate in 2012, has drafted a bill to allow gay marriage now and wants his fellow Liberal lawmakers to be allowed to vote on it according to their consciences rather than to according to party policy.
“It’s time for the party to put the matter to rest once and for all,” Smith told reporters on Monday.
Gay marriage opponents, including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who initiated the plebiscite policy two year ago, argue that the government must stick to its election promise that marriage law would not be changed without a national vote.
“The last thing Australia needs is government by opinion poll,” Abbott wrote in The Australian newspaper. “But neither do we need political parties that believe one thing one minute and the opposite the next,” said Abbott.
Turnbull continues to support gay marriage and initially opposed the plebiscite concept. However Turnbull did agree to maintain the government’s plebiscite policy in a deal with the most conservative lawmakers in his party when he replaced Abbott as prime minister in September 2015.
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