Senate could debate same-sex marriage as soon as Thursday

Senator Dean Smith with his private members bill relating to the definition of marriage

'While the Law Council does not endorse every detail of the Smith Bill it represents a better balance from a human rights perspective and represents greater fairness, including those affected by winding back anti-discrimination laws, ' Ms McLeod said.

Senator Smith's bill draws on the recommendations of a Senate committee and has the backing of the other prominent same-sex marriage supporters on the Coalition backbench: Trent Zimmerman, Trevor Evans, Warren Enstch and Tim Wilson.

Marriage equality advocates including the Equality Campaign's Tiernan Brady and Just Equal's Rodney Croome have questioned why legislating same-sex marriage should include the right to discriminate against same-sex weddings when discrimination laws protect inter-faith and inter-racial marriages and marriage of divorced people.

Almost eight in 10 Australians who received the Australian Bureau of Statistics same-sex marriage survey form have already had their say.

Senator Smith is aiming to introduce his bill to the upper house on Thursday.

"I hope Malcolm Turnbull shows some spine on this, I really do", she said.

"Like millions of other Australians, I will be disappointed if there is a No result, but I will uphold my original commitment and present my Bill to the Senate without any expectation it will be debated", he said.

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WA Liberal MP Ian Goodenough said a dozen conservatives were working on an alternative Bill, which he claimed would offer more protections for Australians who do not support same-sex marriage.

If the result is Yes, Liberal and Labor MPs will have a free vote in Parliament. It permits ministers of religion and religious marriage celebrants to refuse to solemnise a marriage and it allows bodies established for religious purposes to refuse to provide goods or services for the purposes of the solemnisation of a marriage, ' Ms McLeod said. "The Smith bill is a balanced bill".

The bill would also have a no-detriment clause that would forbid the government and its agencies from withdrawing funding from an organisation that was opposed to marriage equality, professional organisations would not be able to refuse to register a practitioner who opposed same-sex marriage and public servants would not be allowed to be fired for sticking to their beliefs.

"If Australians vote for marriage equality and then ... the parliament for any reason delays or seeks to obfuscate or seeks to thwart the wishes of the Australian people, then I think the view of our parliament, the view of this process will be significantly diminished", he told Sky News.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor would give the Smith bill "very favourable consideration".

In a further rebuke, he said while parliamentarians would be entitled to put forward and debate amendments, he believed ideas such as Senator Paterson's "would have virtually no prospect of getting through the Parliament".

"In time, there will be no Christmas or Easter".

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