The Guardian: Same sex marriage: Liberal-aligned students want free vote for MPs
A group of Liberal party-aligned university clubs has added its voice to calls for the legalisation of same-sex marriage, arguing government MPs should be granted a free vote on the issue.
The Australian Liberal Students’ Federation passed a motion on Tuesday expressing its support for marriage equality “if government is to continue to legislate in the area of marriage”.
About 60 delegates from Liberal-aligned university campus clubs attended the meeting of the federation’s federal council at the University of Melbourne, where the motion was passed overwhelmingly.
The federation’s spokesman, Matthew Lesh, said it was “time for the Liberal party to allow a conscience vote for MPs” and to listen to younger people who overwhelmingly supported marriage equality.
“It’s pretty simple: two individuals who love each other should be free to marry. This does not impact other people’s lives, but does mean a lot to those same-sex-attracted individuals who are restricted from marriage,” he said.
“It is both liberal and conservative to support marriage equality. Liberals respect the rights of individuals to choose their own partners and their freedom to marry whom they decide. Conservatives recognise the importance of building a strong civil society by strengthening commitment between individuals regardless of sexual orientation.”
Lesh said the government ideally should have no role in deciding who married, with the matter “left to churches, private celebrants and ultimately contract law”.
“But if they are going to continue with legislation in this field it’s vital to deregulate by removing restrictions on same-sex couples marrying,” he said.
Tony Abbott has repeatedly affirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage, but said the party room would consider its stance if a private member’s bill came before parliament.
“Our policy has been that marriage is between a man and a woman, but in the end it’s up to the party room to decide what our policy is,” the prime minister told the ABC in December.
The communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, a strong advocate for change, said in December he thought it was “very likely” that the parliament would consider a private member’s bill and that the Coalition party room would agree to a conscience vote.
Coalition members were bound to vote against same-sex marriage when the previous parliament considered such bills in 2012. During the last term, Labor changed its official stance to one of support for same-sex marriage and the party’s MPs were allowed a conscience vote. Bills to allow same-sex marriage failed to win majority support in the last parliament.
In December the high court struck down the nation’s first same-sex marriage laws, introduced by the ACT government. The court found, however, that the federal parliament had the constitutional power to introduce a national law allowing same-sex couples to marry.
The Australian Liberal Students’ Federation is not formally affiliated with the Liberal party but has observer status at the party’s federal council, which met in late June.