Chris Teoh and Ivan Hinton-Teoh from Australian Marriage Equality, with LDP Senator David Leyonhjelm. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen “Without a free vote from the Coalition we will struggle on the issue of marriage equality”: Alex Greenwich. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Nanjing Night Net

Marriage equality campaigners will target Liberal MPs, particularly newly-elected politicians, to keep alive any hope of a vote on same-sex marriage during this term of Parliament, while refusing to concede that any reform is now likely years away.

Australian Marriage Equality called for an immediate “reset” in Canberra and for Liberal MPs who support marriage equality to pressure Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to allow a free vote in the absence of a plebiscite.

Another two groups, including Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – known as PFLAG – welcomed news that the plebiscite was now all-but doomed, despite government ministers warning it remains the only path to marriage equality over the next three years.

AME chairman Alex Greenwich said he could “guarantee” there would be action on same-sex marriage in the new Parliament but set his sights on an unlikely outbreak of bipartisanship and MPs on the right of politics coming out publicly with calls for a free vote.

“It is clear that without a free vote from the Coalition we will struggle on the issue of marriage equality,” he conceded.

“We need a reset, we need a rethink and we need people to come together and work out in a respectful way how they are going to get through this impasse. Support among many many new MPs is very strong and I know that whether they are members of the Liberal Party or the Labor Party, or indeed the Greens or Nick Xenophon Team, they want an opportunity through this Parliament to show that support.”

AME, which claims 84 of 150 lower house MPs have publicly stated support for marriage equality, has been torn over whether to gear up to fight a plebiscite or concentrate on shooting down the idea, with founder Rodney Croome, an opponent of a plebiscite, leaving the group last month.

Mr Greenwich said a plebiscite would have reflected public support for same-sex marriage identified in polling.

But PFLAG spokeswoman Sharyn Faulkner thanked Senator Xenophon’s party for standing in the way of the plebiscite in the Senate, along with Derryn Hinch, the Greens and likely Labor.

“We are grateful that more and more politicians are seeing a plebiscite for what it really is – a platform for hate and a delaying tactic,” she said.

“Our gay sons and lesbian daughters have made it very clear they don’t want millions of other people passing judgment on their relationships, and we stand by them.”

Lobby group “just.equal” also called on the ALP to publicly declare its hand and a kill off  the plebiscite.

Spokesman Ivan Hinton-Teoh claimed a blocked plebiscite did not mean marriage equality was stalled.

“I expect that when a plebiscite is knocked on the head, the Government will look again at a free vote, and even if a free vote isn’t allowed only a handful of Liberals need to cross the floor for marriage equality to pass,” he said.

“In the absence of a plebiscite I believe there is a parliamentary path forward for marriage equality.”

Education Minister Simon Birmingham, a leading figure on the Left of the Liberal Party warned that a plebiscite remained the “only way” for change to happen.

“A plebiscite is the only way [supporters] will see that change occur over the next three years,” said.

NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm, who supports marriage equality and introduced a private member’s bill in 2014 to make it law, nonetheless called on the Greens and others not to vote down a plebiscite.

“It is now the quickest path to same-sex marriage.  My concern is for the thousands of people who want to marry. For their sake, our job now should be to get it passed. Arguments about the ideal process and symbolic posturing are not helping,” he said.

“If it’s left to the Greens, Saudi Arabia will have marriage equality before we do.”

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