Turnbull will have to toe party line

Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull has voiced his support for a conscience vote on gay marriage.
Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull has voiced his support for a conscience vote on gay marriage. Cade Mooney

A CONSCIENCE vote on gay marriage does not look likely in Federal Parliament leaving Opposition frontbencher and civil unions supporter Malcolm Turnbull with no choice but to follow his party line.

Speaking at the Southern Cross University Michael Kirby Lecture Series on the Gold Coast on Friday, Mr Turnbull, who has voiced his support for a conscience vote on the controversial topic, said it did not look likely his leader would change his mind.

"I don't think Mr (Tony) Abbott is likely to change his mind; he has made a decision on that and he has the support of the party room," he said.

Two bills on civil unions recently went through the parliamentary committee process but are not expected to go before Federal Parliament until the end of the year.

Despite the delay, Mr Turnbull is confident federally-recognised civil unions will become a reality.

"While I am very doubtful the numbers are there to legislate for gay marriage in the Federal Parliament I think they are certainly there to legislate for civil unions," he said. "I think it would be a great pity if marriage is not able to be passed in the parliament and that opportunity to pass civil unions should be taken up.

"I think it will be between now and when the parliament is dissolved before the time of the election."

His remarks follow the Queensland Parliament's controversial move to repeal civil union laws and make surrogacy for same-sex couple illegal.

Mr Turnbull would not comment on the moves.

The coalition MP was scheduled to give a speech on gay marriage and human rights at the annual lecture last night but was not giving anything away to reporters beforehand.

He will be joined by former High Court Justice Michael Kirby, who has been a staunch advocate for gay rights throughout his very accomplished legal career.

Topics:  conscience vote federal parliament gay marriage lnp malcolm turnbull

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