Australian PM refuses to back free vote on same-sex marriage bill

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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to back a free vote for MPs on an upcoming same-sex marriage bill.

Lone Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm introduced a Freedom to Marry private member’s bill last week.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a staunch opponent of equal marriage despite overwhelming public support for the measure –  but has faced calls to allow his MPs to have a free vote on the bill.

However, he refused to support calls for a conscience vote on the bill for his MPs today – backing away from earlier comments.

He told the Sydney Morning Herald: “Normally, opposition private members motions in the Senate are dealt with without a vote [in the party room].

“Now, if this one is different, well, obviously the party room will consider it.

“But if is dealt with in the normal way, it won’t actually come before the party room.”

The opposition Labour party has already said it will allow its MPs a conscience vote on the issue.

Rodney Croome of Australian Marriage Equality said: “Mr Abbott made a clear, unequivocal pre-election promise to allow his coalition colleagues to debate and decide on a conscience vote.

“By honouring this commitment Mr Abbott will help quell concerns that he all-too-lightly breaks his commitments to the electorate.

“I back Senator Leyonhjelm’s challenge to Mr Abbott because, like the majority of Australians, I want to see parliament get on with this overdue reform.”

The last vote on same-sex marriage in Australia was held in 2012, when the House of Representatives rejected it by 98-42, and the Senate by 41-26.