Australian PM faces growing threat of revolt from equal marriage supporters

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is facing growing threats of a rebellion from “quite a number” of his own MPs over his stalling on equal marriage.

The country’s right-wing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been under growing pressure to pass an equal marriage law, due to overwhelming public support.

Mr Turnbull refuses to permit a vote in Parliament on the issue, due to strong opposition from key members of his government, who insist the issue can only be settled by a nationwide ballot.

However, as the public runs out of patience, pro-gay factions within Turnbull’s coalition have threatened to rebel and back a free vote in Parliament – after an MP for the governing Liberal Party, Dean Smith, submitted a private member’s bill on the issue.

Malcolm Turnbull

The issue could come to a head next week, when Turnbull’s coalition is expected to meet to agree a stance on Mr Smith’s bill.

In an interview with The Australian, gay Liberal MP Trevor Evans hinted that “quite a number” of MPs were considering their options on the issue, despite the party line remaining against a free vote.

He said: “There is a still a number of ways to achieve reform, but I think the quickest and most likely course now is to allow politicians to have a free vote … and I support that.

“I am talking with colleagues, quite a number of colleagues, about different options that sit in front of us at the moment.’

The MP would not be drawn on whether he would cross the floor on the issue against his leader’s wishes.

He said: “I don’t think it is useful to enter­tain all of the hypotheticals on how it might be achieved.

“I am not ruling anything out… there is a number of ways that things can be brought onto the floor in order to have a vote.”

Just three government MPs would need to rebel in order to force the issue to the floor in Parliament – while half a dozen are outspoken in support in same-sex marriage.

The issue will certainly cause a headache for Turnbull, who came to power in an internal party coup. During the leadership challenge, Mr Turnbull allegedly gave private assurances to anti-LGBT conservatives that he would not change the party position on same-sex marriage.

Breaking that promise may not end well for the leader.

According to the Australian, several MPs have warned that Mr Turnbull’s position would be “untenable’’ if he permits a free vote in Parliament.