Turnbull cops a battering over same-sex marriage

David Gray  Reuters                       A marcher holds aloft a sign while participating in a marriage equality march in central Sydney Australia

Although the result of the poll will not be binding on the government, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised that a bill to change marriage laws will be forthcoming. Confident of victory, the "yes" campaign has organised a series of major public gatherings in each capital cities, while the "no" campaign will digest the results at the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney.

The proposal has already been rejected by Turnbull, who said yesterday while still overseas that "I don't believe Australians would welcome, and certainly the government ... would not countenance making legal, discrimination that is illegal, that is unlawful today".

If supported, Thursday's Senate program will effectively be cleared to prioritise debate on the bill, which will be the subject of a free vote not bound by party positions.

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Commercial operations would be able to turn down bookings or business with both those who support marriage equality and those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage.

It is not known if Senator Paterson's bill is the same bill that Western Australian Liberal MP Ian Goodenough said a collection of a dozen conservative MPs were working on creating, or if there are still more alternative bills to be put forward.

Ideas of the kind Senator Paterson proposed "would have virtually no prospect of getting through the Parliament", Mr Turnbull added.

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This gives the Smith bill an immediate advantage over its legislative rival, a bill penned by Liberal senator James Paterson. "From what we've seen so far this is just another attempt to delay passing marriage equality", he said. "They won't be. constrained by any party policy".

Government ministers instead backed the Smith bill, which legalises same-sex marriage while providing a moderate level of exemptions for religious organisations, and is backed by Labor, the Greens and others.

It is unclear when Senator Paterson will introduce his bill into the Upper House for debate or whether he will use the plan as the basis for amendments to Senator Smith's version.

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The Senator from Victoria said his bill would allow any Australian to declare that they would not participate in a same-sex wedding if it violated their religious beliefs.

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