AUSTRALIANS will be asked to take part in a voluntary postal vote on gay marriage in October under a Turnbull Government plan to get the issue off the agenda by the end of the year.
The Government will reintroduce its failed plebiscite to amend the Marriage Act into the Senate this week, after gay marriage supporters forced the issue at a special Liberal party room meeting yesterday, the Courier-Mail reports
But with the likelihood the Bill will fail in its current form, the Government will move to a non-compulsory, non-binding postal plebiscite, which will ask Australians to vote on the issue in October.
Results would be expected in November and if the majority voted in favour of marriage equality, a free vote would be held in Parliament in early December. If it failed, the Government would not facilitate laws to legalise same-sex marriage.
Last night, Queensland MP Warren Entsch, who has campaigned on marriage equality for 15 years and argued strongly for change in the party room yesterday, signalled he would hold on pulling the trigger on a co-sponsored, gay marriage private member's Bill.
Government tacticians view this as the best solution that will enable a start to 2018 without distractions on gay marriage and a focus on the economy, energy and national security.
Should the law be changed to allow same sex couples to marry?
This poll ended on 29 August 2017.
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
The new tactic will be debated in a joint Liberal-National party meeting in Canberra today in a bid to give gay marriage proponents a new timeline.
There was speculation last night the Government may try to reduce the amount a postal plebiscite would cost by cutting the $15 million in taxpayer funds for the "yes" and "no" campaigns.
However, a spokeswoman for Acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann confirmed the original Bill - Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016 - would be introduced in its current form.
It is almost certain it will fail to pass the Senate.
The 90-minute meeting heard from seven MPs and senators who pushed for a free vote. A show of hands was asked, with the current position 28 to 7 in favour of maintaining an election commitment of a plebiscite.
Correspondence from Queensland MP Trevor Evans, who was unable to attend because he was at his grandmother's funeral, was read out to the party room.
The Prime Minister spoke first, urging the party room to abide by an election commitment to give people a choice to vote on the matter.
Tony Abbott spoke, as did pro-gay marriage supporters, including Trent Zimmerman, Tim Wilson, John Alexander and Dean Smith.
Mr Entsch told The Courier-Mail last night he was willing to let the plebiscite process play out, if it was given a definitive time frame, but he "reserved his rights" with regards to a free vote.
"I'm profoundly disappointed that we weren't able to do it now because I think the issue will continue to drag on," he said.
"If this is what is necessary for some of my colleagues to be able to come out and support it, then I will give them the opportunity to do that."
Western Australian Liberal Senator Dean Smith said ahead of yesterday's party room meeting: "(A postal vote) is a D-grade response to what is a defining A-grade social issue."
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