Rebel Libs Are Pushing Marriage Equality In An Emergency Party Meeting Today

The list of things giving Malcolm Turnbull grief is extremely long, but the biggest one right now – and rightfully, tbh – is marriage equality. After copping an absolute bruising from both sides of his party on the issue, a special party room meeting is happening today to decide what happens next.

Five rebel backbench MPs – Dean Smith, Trent Zimmerman, Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson and Warren Entsch – are coming to the meeting pushing a private members’ bill which they hope will lead to a free vote on the issue.

Smith, who drafted the the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill, says it’s the most comprehensive same-sex marriage bill to arrive before the Parliament. The rebels are basically betting on the fact that the range of religious protections and exemptions in the bill will coax conservatives into at least allowing it to be voted on.

Entsch – who has been a fairly reliable voice within the Liberal Party for marriage equality for some time – has been doing the media rounds delegitimising the widely criticised same-sex marriage plebiscite, by arguing that it was a classic Tony Abbott captain’s call and that the party room never actually got to vote on it.

Not only is marriage equality a bit of a no-brainer at this point, but the pressure is mounting. Research by ReachTEL for the Australia Institute found that voters in seven key seats think the plebiscite is a bullshit way to address the issue, and that Parliament should just get on with it and vote. Funny about that.

The bill being pushed by the rebels includes stringent protections for religious communities and marriage equality naysayers. Religious ministers, civil celebrants, and businesses linked to a religious body who refuse to marry same-sex couples will not be compelled to do so.

Meanwhile, conservatives in the party are largely still pushing for a plebiscite, or similar measures. For example, Peter Dutton thinks we should sort it out via a ‘non-binding postal vote’, which is transparently a way to artificially tip the scales in favour of the kind of maniacs who would participate in such a vote (hint: it’s old people).

Senator Smith maintains that this shouldn’t be seen as a challenge to Turnbull’s leadership. “This is a test for each and every member of the parliamentary Liberal party,” he told the ABC.

Either way it spins out, it’s going to be a big day for both marriage equality and the Liberal Party. Stay tuned.