ONGOING tensions within the Liberal Party over the legalisation of same-sex marriage have been downplayed by federal MP for Flinders Greg Hunt.
A passionate Mr Hunt told The Times last Friday he believed media claims of internal party divisions in the aftermath of a Liberal party room meeting earlier this month to discuss same-sex marriage legalisation have been overblown.
Workplace Minister Eric Abetz slammed cabinet leakers as “gutless” as differences of opinion on same-sex marriage emerged publicly after the meeting held behind closed doors in the Liberal party room on Tuesday 11 August.
Mr Hunt revealed he spoke in favour of marriage equality during the Liberal party room debate and backed a “free conscience vote” by MPs not tied along party policy lines.
“I do support same-sex marriage and that view has evolved over recent years through conversations with the community,” he said.
Mr Hunt has changed his mind on same-sex marriage since voting against a private members bill in September 2012 to legalise marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
The member for Flinders was among 98 MPs who voted against the proposal. Just 42 supported the bill at the time.
Mr Hunt said he now supports same-sex marriage “subject to strong protections of religious freedom”.
The Environment Minister in the Abbott government says there is no animosity between himself and Dunkley Liberal MP and Small Business Minister Bruce Billson, for example, despite differing views on same-sex marriage (‘Liberals remain divided on same-sex marriage’, The Times 17/8/15).
Mr Billson favours “the formal recognition of same-sex relationships” rather than its legalisation and says “going to a process after the next election that puts the question [on legalising same-sex marriage] to the people enables all individuals to have their say”.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a long-time opponent of same-sex marriage, has rejected any party room backing of a free vote for Liberal MPs and instead favours a national plebiscite or referendum if the Coalition government wins a second term in office.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten has vowed to legalise same-sex marriage without a plebiscite or referendum within 100 days of Labor winning government.