Australian MPs in the governing party will be free to vote according to their “values and beliefs” on the issue of redefining marriage, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has confirmed.
In Britain Gerald Howarth, a defence minister, says MPs at Westminster should also have a free vote on the issue.
The British Government has announced that the Government will consult next year on how – not if – marriage should be redefined to allow homosexual marriage.
In Australia, Miss Gillard says she is not in support of rewriting the definition of marriage because she recognises the importance of the institution in society.
She said: “My position flows from my strong conviction that the institution of marriage has come to have a particular meaning and standing in our culture and nation and that should continue unchanged.”
She added: “Given the personal nature of the issue and the deeply held beliefs, I believe that in future it is appropriate that a conscience vote flow to Labor parliamentarians”.
“They should be free to vote in the parliament according to their own values and beliefs”, she concluded.
In Britain Gerald Howarth, a Tory MP, hit out at David Cameron’s plan to redefine marriage saying it is a “step too far”.
Mr Cameron caused a storm of controversy when he declared his personal support for rewriting the definition of marriage at his party’s conference in Manchester in October.
He said he supported redefining marriage because of, not in spite of, being a Conservative.
But Dave Landrum of the Evangelical Alliance warned it may signal the end of conservatism: “If you can’t conserve the institution of marriage, what can you conserve?”
The Scottish Government is also consulting on the issue and said its initial view is that it supports redefining marriage for homosexuals. It is running a consultation, promising that all views will be listened to.