Prime Minister Julia Gillard has restated her view that marriage should remain in Australian law the union of one man and one woman, at the same time reiterating that the government’s view may not change regardless of the party’s decision at its national conference this December.

In an interview on Sky News last week, Ms Gillard said:

“The National Conference doesn’t ever set government positions. What National Conference does is it sets the platform, the aspirations for our political party but always government, Labor Caucus in government makes decisions on government policy.”

This means that the Gillard government may not permit its members to have a free vote on same-sex marriage in the current parliament even if the party platform is altered to support a conscience vote on marriage.

Despite enormous Greens pressure on the government to drop its support for marriage and bring on a conscience vote in this parliament, Ms Gillard’s view is consistent with her pre-election commitment given to the ACL that an ALP government would continue to support marriage.

The Greens kept up the pressure in the Senate last week with Sarah Hanson-Young tabling a motion calling “on the Government to support marriage equality for all Australian citizens”. The motion was defeated 31 votes to 9, as the Coalition joined the ALP in defeating it.

It is perhaps somewhat of an indictment on the integrity of the debate that Ms Hanson-Young has not been called out for her obviously misleading claim in the motion that, “Australia is one of only a few democratic nations that does not provide same-sex couples with equal marriage rights”.

The pressure will continue to build in mid-August when parliament resumes, with the Greens sole lower house MP Adam Bandt securing time in the house for members to report back to parliament on their consultations with constituents on same-sex marriage.

Ms Gillard’s comments came in a week where the NSW conference of the ALP agreed to refer the issue of same-sex marriage to their national colleagues rather than to support it, as their colleagues in Queensland and Western Australian had done recently.

At NSW conference federal MP Deborah O'Neill made some welcome remarks regarding marriage and those who support it, saying that religious people “were unfairly maligned as bigoted, intolerant, homophobic or brainwashed by religious indoctrination”.

Meanwhile, Australian Baptist Ministries has distanced itself from pro-gay-marriage comments made by the Reverend Nathan Nettleton on the ABC Compass broadcast last Sunday. It said his comments “do not represent the views of Australian Baptist Ministries or an overwhelming majority of Baptists in Australia and around the world”.

With so much happening in the marriage debate, particularly with MPs preparing to speak to the issue in parliament next month, it is still important to speak up for marriage with your local member. Visit www.makeastand.org.au for easy advice on how to get involved.