Australian Labor Party won’t bind MPs to vote for same-sex marriage

Australia’s opposition Labor Party has confirmed its MPs will be given a free vote on upcoming same-sex marriage legislation – and will not be forced to vote in favour.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a staunch opponent of equal marriage, but is facing pressure to allow his MPs a free vote on a cross-party marriage bill, following progress in Ireland and the United States.

Ahead of a bill that is set to come to a vote in August, the opposition Labor Party – whose leader Bill Shorten supports same-sex marriage – has confirmed its MPs will not be bound to vote in favour.

The ALP conference passed a motion that means MPs will not be bound to vote for the issue until 2019, and will be given freedom to vote against if they wish to until then.

Though on paper the move lowers support for same-sex marriage in Parliament, some campaigners are hopeful that by Labor ensuring a free vote to its MPs, the Liberals will do the same.

Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said: “By deciding not to bind Labor MPs to vote for marriage equality, the Labor Party has increased pressure on Tony Abbott to ensure Coalition MPs are not bound to vote against it.”

“We believe marriage equality is achievable in this term of government through a cross-party conscience vote so our campaign will continue to be directed towards the Coalition allowing a free vote and getting the numbers on the floor of parliament.”

“We urge supporters of marriage equality in the Coalition to carry the issue forward in their party room and we urge the Prime Minister to stick to his pre-election commitment of allowing the party room to debate a free vote.”