The Liberal Party Is Completely Imploding Over A New Multi-Party Bill For Marriage Equality

*grabs popcorn*

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

When Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek went full Beyoncé and slammed down a surprise bill for marriage equality in May, the move was unsurprisingly condemned by the Prime Minister. Though it was met with much support from the public, the government immediately labelled the bill a cheap political stunt and called for a cross-party approach to the issue instead.

“If our parliament were to make a big decision on a matter such as this, it ought to be owned by the parliament and not by any particular party,” the PM said in Question Time. Keen on that suggestion, the Deputy Opposition leader welcomed the Liberal Party to get involved, to no avail, and the government ditched the joint completely forcing ol’ mate to read his doomed bill to an empty room.

And now, things are slightly trickier. Late yesterday afternoon it was revealed that Liberal MPs Warren Entsch and Teresa Gambaro plan to introduce their own bill on marriage equality next month. It will be seconded by Labor MP Terri Butler and co-sponsored by Labor’s Laurie Ferguson, Adam Bandt from the Greens and Independent MPs Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie.

Alongside those from Shorten and David Leyonhjelm, this will be the third bill on the issue introduced to Parliament — but it will be the first which has public support from Coalition MPs, and it’s exactly the kind of multi-party approach Tony Abbott was calling for. In spite of all this — and his election promise of a free vote on the issue, if such conditions were met — the PM has offered nothing but a mopey shrug. A spokesperson relayed to Fairfax this morning that “his position remains unchanged and [the] government’s priority is the economy and national security”.

Eric Abetz Helpfully Recaps Every Single Bad Argument

Abbott’s predictably disheartening response was quickly eclipsed by that of his colleagues, all of whom I presume had been ill-advisably fed after midnight. First off the bat was Government Leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, who immediately scrawled a cranky op-ed about marriage equality in the US, and same-sex parenting. Referencing recently rejected legislation on the issue in Austria and an anti-same sex marriage protest in Rome, Abetz argued the issue was often misrepresented as universally popular.

“It is disappointingly predictable that the media in Australia is obsessed by a slim majority activist US Supreme Court decision,” he said. “Most people in a democracy believe social policy should be determined by the people, not by dubious interpretation by an activist judiciary.”

Strangely enough, the piece made no mention of the other recent major marriage equality landmark in Ireland, where the legislation was passed in a landslide referendum — nor our actual statistics which show mounting majority public support for the issue.

Unfazed, Abetz then went on to book himself a full dance card with the media. As you were gently rousing from a long and peaceful night’s sleep, he was already on ABC Radio talking about how same-sex marriage wasn’t very relevant to us because it’s not in many Asian countries. Then the senior government representative breathlessly asked if “[we’re] in the Asian century or not?”, before the host flatly ended the interview. Abetz quickly made his way to Sky News to enthusiastically leapfrog onto polyamory. 

“If you undo the institution of marriage by redefining it for the latest movement or the latest fad, you will open the Pandora’s box,” he said, harking back to the logic of the bestiality comments that forced Cory Bernardi to resign as Liberal spokesperson in 2012.

Speak Of The Devil…

As if summoned by the faintest whispers of confused bigotry, Bernardi himself got in on the action soon after. In an interview with Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast, the controversial Senator for Making Doubly-Sure There’s No Terrorists In Our Vegemite jumped the shark and dismissed the issue entirely. “There is no discrimination whatsoever between homosexual couples and heterosexual couples that are in a binding relationship,” he said. “A tiny minority of Australians think this is a priority issue.”

But Kelly wasn’t having a bar of it, pointing out there’s currently “68 percent support for gay marriage [and] 57 percent support amongst Liberals for gay marriage”.

“Why would you want to deny this debate in the parliament, in the people’s house?” she asked. “The fact that you don’t want it to go even as a private member’s bill in the parliament, or even for discussion in your party room, suggests you don’t believe that you’ve got the numbers; that if Liberal MPs are given a free vote there will be enough support in the parliament to pass this bill.”

To his credit, Bernardi did respond to this saying he was open to the bill going through “the normal party processes” to be discussed in the party room, if someone was inclined to raise it; he then argued his overall reluctance was due to the skepticism that any of this would change the Liberal Party’s official position.

Regardless, all this seems pretty far off Teresa Gambaro’s direct statement when she announced the bill yesterday. “Marriage is fundamentally an expression of love and should not be an issue that divides us,” she wrote. “For this reason, if for no other, this issue must be dealt with carefully, responsibly and in a respectful manner.”

LNP leadership rn

The bill is set to be formally introduced on August 11.

Feature image via ABC Radio National.