Same-sex marriage officially on NSW agenda

NSW is one step closer to a vote on legalising same-sex marriage, with MPs from across the political spectrum giving the first official notice of new legislation.

A cross-party working group of MPs from the Coalition, Labor, the Greens and an Independent have been working on a bill which would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in this state, following the failure of three federal same-sex marriage bills earlier this year.

Premier Barry O'Farrell has already confirmed Liberal MPs will be allowed a conscience vote on the bill when it comes before parliament next year, with Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner promising the same for the Nationals. Labor MPs will also be allowed a conscience vote.

Notice will be given of the bill by several MPs in the upper house on Tuesday.

"The co-operative approach being taken here in NSW really shows up Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard for their recalcitrance on marriage equality," said Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann.

The cross-party group had hoped to co-sponsor the bill in parliament in a show of bipartisan unity on the issue, but due to a technicality in the rules of parliament this is not allowed.

Instead, the upper house members of the group, Nationals MLC Trevor Khan, Labor MLC Penny Sharpe and Ms Faehrmann will all give notice of the same State Marriage Equality Bill.

A lottery during the next session of parliament in early 2013 will then determine who will formally introduce the bill.

The bill itself is still being drafted and will not be introduced in full until next year.

Mr Khan said there were a range of details, such as whether to deal explicitly with the issue of property rights, and how celebrants would be registered, that still need to be finalised.

According to constitutional law expert, Professor Anne Twomey, dealing with issues such as property rights is critical, as is the question of how the laws would be recognised in other states.

"The real problem with trying to do it at a state level is to get it recognised in other states so it has some status ... and also how you deal with all the tricky stuff when relationships break up, in relation to property, in relation to children from the marriage," she said.

Mr Khan conceded there was a possibility that any such bill could be subject to a High Court challenge, but said the group was not deterred.

"Our responsibility is to pass laws that on their face have a reasonable prospect of withstanding such a challenge, and that's what we're seeking to do," he said.

The other members of the cross-party working group are Liberal MP for Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith, and Independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich.


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