OPINION: Free vote on same-sex marriage draws closer

COMMENT BY CAROLINE HUTCHINSON: IS IT just me or does everyone think the clock is ticking?

Real pressure is mounting on Tony Abbott to allow a free vote for coalition MPs on same-sex marriage.

Independent senator David Leyonhjelm has put forward a "freedom to marry" bill which would amend the Marriage Act to allow marriage between same-sex couples, as well as transgender and intersex Australians.

Yesterday one of the Liberal Party's rising stars, Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg threw his support behind a free vote on the issue in the Liberal party room, saying a conscience vote is likely to succeed if put to the party. After meeting same-sex couples in his electorate Mr Frydenberg said his view had "evolved".

Mr Frydenberg also cited the international movement. He said 17 countries have legalised same-sex marriage in recent years, most notably, comparable nations like Canada, New Zealand and Britain.

Sunshine Coast MP Wyatt Roy has also thrown his weight behind the push. In the Daily yesterday, Mr Roy said marriage equality is about individual freedom as well as the "benefits of long-term, committed and loving relationships".

The member for Longman has agreed to sponsor Senator Leyonhjelm's bill in the lower house.

Something else worth noting, is Tony Abbott's inner circle. One of the Prime Minister's closest confidants is Mark Textor, managing director of polling group Crosby Textor and the Liberal Party's chief external strategist.

Mr Textor says support among Australians for same-sex marriage and for a conscience vote in the Coalition has reached an all-time high.

A Crosby Textor poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality, has found that 72% of Australians want same-sex marriage legalised, while 77% think Coalition MPs should be granted a conscience vote.

Announcing the results, Mr Textor said: "Support for same-sex marriage has doubled since 2004, and is still rising. The seismic shift in public attitudes towards marriage equality is undeniable. Almost everyone agrees that this is the right thing to do and there is no need to have a grand fight on this issue."

According to the poll, support for same-sex marriage is now higher in Australia than it was in any other country, including New Zealand and Great Britain, when overseas parliaments have passed marriage equality laws.

At the same time, opposition to same-sex marriage has collapsed, with just one in five opposed.

The poll found that a majority of voters across a range of demographics and in almost every age group backed marriage reform. Eighty five percent of people with children support the Freedom to Marry bill.

For my money, marriage equality is a social justice issue.

I have no problem with churches or religious bodies retaining the right to decide what unions they will perform or recognise, but government has no such luxury.

Australia must remove all discrimination from the Marriage Act to ensure that all people, regardless of their sex or gender identity have the right to marry.

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