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Bill Shorten's compromise on same-sex marriage

Here’s a chance to say to parents, children, friends, families of same-sex partners: the people you love are equal and valuable in your eyes.

By Karen Middleton
Labor leader Bill Shorten has vowed to introduce legislation within 100 days of winning office to legalise same-sex marriage if no change in the law occurs sooner.
As its national conference closed on Sunday, the Labor Party reached a compromise on same-sex marriage, retaining the rule that its MPs and senators be entitled to a conscience vote if the issue comes before them within the next two parliamentary terms.
Any time after that, they would bound to vote in favour of change.
The compromise resolved an impasse between Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s Right faction and some members of Labor’s Left, including deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and frontbench Senator Penny Wong.
Ms Plibersek, Senator Wong and their supporters wanted Labor parliamentarians to be compelled to vote to legalise same-sex marriage now.
Instead, the vote will only become binding on Labor MPs in the 46th Parliament – two three-year terms away.
The compromise avoided a split on the conference floor which could have undermined Mr Shorten’s authority.
The Labor leader said he wanted a vote this year.
“Here’s a chance to say to parents, children, friends, families of same-sex partners: the people you love are equal and valuable in your eyes and their relationships are equal and valuable in the eyes of the law,” he said.
To young, gay Australians he said: “We are proud of you for who you are.”
He called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to also give his MPs a free vote, saying Australia was “trailing the world” on the issue.
Mr Shorten also acknowledged those within his own party who did not support changing the law.
“The Labor Party is still a party which says to people of religious faith ‘you are welcome in our party’.”
Ms Plibersek said she wanted the entire Labor Party to take up the issue as one of “legal discrimination”.
“Of course no church should be forced to marry a (same-sex) couple,” she said. “But society should not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexuality and our laws should never discriminate on the basis of sexuality.”
Delegates rose and applauded frontbench Senator Penny Wong as she took the podium, leaving the longtime campaigner who is in a same-sex relationship, in tears.
“There is nothing to fear from equality,” Senator Wong said.
Left faction leader Anthony Albanese, who did not support a binding vote, praised the outcome.
“This proposition ensures that there is a great chance of getting marriage equality this year than if this resolution hadn’t been put before this conference,” Mr Albanese said.
“…History is marching forward. It is marching forward in one direction and it is marching forward towards equality.”
All four stood together, joined by former WA senator Louise Pratt, and held a rainbow flag as the resolution passed.
“We believe that hope can triumph over fear, that optimism defeats pessimism,” Mr Shorten said, as the conference closed.
Earlier, the conference voted to guarantee women would hold 50 per cent of parliamentary and other positions for Labor by 2025.

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