The Greens and a group of crossbenchers will introduce a bill to support same-sex marriage, as almost 200 prominent LGBTI Australians call on the federal government to drop its proposed marriage equality plebiscite, saying the current plan could divide families and lead community harm.
Greens MP Adam Bandt and independents Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan were to introduce the bill as parliament reconvened on Monday morning, amid ongoing reports of emerging splits in the Coalition over how the controversial, non-binding plebiscite will be funded.
"We are inviting Labor and Liberal members of the back bench to sign on and co-sponsor it. Having been trying to get reform on this area for a while, if one party tries to own this issue, it will fall over," Bandt told reporters on Monday.
"The best chance of getting reform will be if we all work together across the Parliament and so I'm asking Labor to come and work with the crossbenchers, and ideally with the Liberal Party."
The move comes amid reports Labor is demanding a successful plebiscite would automatically lead to marriage equality becoming law, rather than depending on another vote in the Parliament.
The move comes as 200 prominent LGBTI Australians published an advertisement in Fairfax newspapers calling for Parliament to block the plebiscite and exercise its power to debate and pass same-sex marriage.
Just.equal spokesperson Ivan Hinton-Teoh said the LGBTI community is overwhelmingly opposed to a plebiscite.
"Not from a fear of losing the poll, but what could be lost in the process," Hinton-Teoh said in a statement.
"We ask parliamentarians from all parties to work together for a free vote in parliament."
"In Parliament robust debate can occur in a way that does not divide families and communities, and does not harm LGBTIQ Australians. Marriage equality can be considered, debated and achieved within this term. The government should work with the opposition and cross benchers to make it so."
The Declaration, signed by 200 prominent Australians in the arts, sport, religion, business and the community sector:
We are proud members of the LGBTIQ community who support marriage equality, but don't want a damaging plebiscite to get us there. We know a plebiscite will ruin lives and cause great distress for our community. There is also a significant risk that a "yes" vote will not lead directly to marriage equality because a plebiscite is not binding. We call on the parliament to reject the idea of a plebiscite and instead legislate for marriage equality now.
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) national spokesperson, Sharyn Faulkner, said the ad reflects the views of everyday LGBTI Australians who overwhelmingly oppose a plebiscite under any circumstances.
"We call on the Senate, and particularly the Labor Party, to listen to the LGBTI community and vote against a plebiscite," she said in a statement.
The call comes as the Liberal Party's first openly gay federal parliamentarian, Senator Dean Smith, declined to rule out crossing the floor over the proposed plebiscite.
"I'll be waiting to see what the plebiscite detail is," he told the ABC on Saturday.
Debate has also erupted over the funding of the plebiscite, after reports church leaders were told by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull both the "yes" and "no" sides of the debate would be funded.
Turnbull's office has reportedly flatly rejected that interpretation at the meeting recollection, "with staff present... insisting he had made no such offer," NewsCorp reports.
Tasmanian Conservative Senator Eric Abetz told the ABC he's against the notion of the yes and no campaign raising their own funds.
"I wanted to flag my concern up front straight away that this idea that somehow you can have a proper plebiscite without funding for the 'yes' and 'no' cases would not be the sort of plebiscite that was envisaged by the party room when we decided on it," he told AM.
On Friday the Archbishop of Melbourne and Primate of Australia, Dr Philip Freier, wrote to faithful saying he welcomed the plebiscite, though with strong reservations that the tenor of the debate must be guarded and kept positive.
"Those who oppose same-sex marriage will surely find it easier to accept it becoming approved in law if they have been given a vote," he said.
"It is of course, far from certain at the present time that the measures will gain parliamentary approval.
Comedian Magda Szubanski
Olympic gold medalist Matthew Mitcham
Singer Foustina Agolley
Actor Simon Burke
Opera star Deborah Cheetham
Writer Benjamin Law
Radio host Julie McCrossin
Uniting Church minister Rev Peter Weeks
Former Liberal candidate Kevin Eckendahl
Comedian Pauline Panstdown (aka Simon Hunt)
Former Australian Medical Association president Kerryn Phelps
The first openly gay senior rugby player Ian Roberts
Former convener of Australian Marriage Equality, Peter Furness.