Senator David Leyonhjelm speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, July 10, 2014. The carbon tax repeal Bill was today voted down in the Senate.
Senator David Leyonhjelm speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, July 10, 2014. The carbon tax repeal Bill was today voted down in the Senate. AAP Image - Lukas Coch

New senator calls for conscience vote on marriage

MARRIAGE equality is back on the political agenda in Canberra after a new crossbench senator called on both major parties to allow a conscience vote on his bill later this year.

New South Wales Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm's proposal would do away with the specific definition of marriage being between a man and woman in Commonwealth law.

While a vote on the issue is not expected until later this year, he has called on the Abbott government and Labor to allow a conscience vote, rather than have politicians toe the party line.

A conscience vote in the Coalition was previously not allowed in the last parliament, torpedoing any potential for a successful change to the Marriage Act.

But Senator Leyonhjelm, a self-confessed "moderate libertarian" said he wanted Mr Abbott to be able to look his gay sister, and Labor leader Bill Shorten to look Senator Penny Wong in the eye on the issue.

He said far from being a "left-wing issue", marriage equality was a "liberty issue", and that governments should not be able to decide such details of Australians' personal lives.

"If you are opposed to marriage equality, I am not asking for your acceptance, merely your tolerance," he said on Monday.

But in a move showing the new senator's political acumen, Senator Leyonhjelm said he may make a conscience vote part of his conditional support of proposed changes to temporary protection visas.

The government is hoping to reinstate TPVs after the High Court rejected its bid to limit the overall number of visas available to asylum seekers.

Senator Leyonhjelm said he had no strong views either way on the subject, but if he could use it to ensure a conscience vote on marriage equality could be delivered, he would.


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