FEDERAL Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has called for a united Coalition front to defeat a push for a redefinition of the Marriage Act to include same-sex unions.
Mr Abbott said in an interview on a national media program last weekend, the Opposition should honour its party policy that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman.
However, Mr Abbott said in the same interview: “We won’t finalise a position until it goes before the party room in the new year”.
The matter was also reported to be the subject of robust discussions in a Shadow Cabinet meeting last Monday.
As many as seven shadow ministers of the Coalition were said to have supported a conscience vote.
The shadow cabinet resolved to back Mr Abbott by not changing Coalition policy and not to allow a conscience vote when the matter comes before Parliament next year.
If a conscience vote were to be allowed, it is thought as many as 12 Opposition MPs would cross the floor in support of the bill.
In such a situation, the proposed changes to the Marriage Act would probably succeed.
However, if Mr Abbott’s lead continues to be followed, a Coalition vote on party lines is likely to defeat the proposed changes.
Legislation seeking an amendment to the Marriage Act to include same-sex relationships could come as soon as next February.
This follows Labor MP Stephen Jones’ stated intention to move a private member’s bill on the amendment when Parliament resumes.
Mr Abbott said in last weekend’s interview “the clear policy of the Coalition at the last election (was) that marriage was between a man and a woman”.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) endorsed Mr Abbott’s stance.
“Whatever people feel on the issue of same-sex marriage, I think there will be a great majority of Australians glad to see Mr Abbott confirming that an election promise is an election promise,” ACL managing director Jim Wallace said.
At the Australian Labor Party’s recent national conference, the party’s federal platform was amended to support same-sex marriage laws.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who opposes the changes, succeeded in passing a motion at the conference to allow a conscience vote on the issue.
Meanwhile Bishop Greg O’Kelly of Port Pirie, in a recent opinion piece, has described his “sadness” at the recent ALP national conference decision to endorse same-sex unions as equivalent to marriage.
“Where I grew up, a member of a railway family, to be Catholic was to be Labor; to be otherwise was almost an act of betrayal,” he wrote.
“The Party stood to defend and support working-class families through ensuring that justice triumphed over economic and political discrimination.
“True Labor never envisaged an attack on human institutions such as marriage, through defining an anomaly as an equivalent.
“A same-sex union is never comparable to a family founded on the Sacrament of Marriage.”