Australia's ruling Liberal party refuses vote on same-sex marriage

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A joint party room meeting will be held tomorrow where the issue may be raised, the spokeswoman says.

Liberal backbenchers have overwhelmingly agreed to try for a second time to secure a plebiscite on marriage equality.

For nine months the issue had remained in limbo, after a government proposal to hold a national vote, or plebiscite, on the topic was blocked in the parliament in October 2016.

On Monday, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government would re-introduce the same legislation, but accompanied by a contingency plan to counter any rejection by the upper house, where the government does not have a majority.

Cormann said the government was confident it had a legal and constitutional way to have a postal vote - without Senate approval.

'Our preference is to give effect to the commitment we made at the last election... that is why we're asking the senate to support the compulsory attendance plebiscite'.

If that fails, the government believes it will be able to conduct a voluntary postal plebiscite through the Australian Electoral Commission, and then a free vote in Parliament.

The prime minister pushed back against Abbott's intervention, saying the government did plenty and stood for plenty.

"This is ridiculous", Opposition leader Bill Shorten said after the meeting.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that marriage equality is no closer than it was yesterday.

"I am disappointed for hundreds of thousands of Australians that their Prime Minister has once again let them down".

Liberal MPs Warren Entsch and Tim Wilson - who are among five MPs pushing for a parliamentary vote on a new marriage equality bill drafted by Liberal senator Dean Smith - said they would not rule out the plebiscite by mail option, which is set to be offered up as a compromise at today's meeting.

Entsch told the ABC on Monday night he was happy to go through the process of seeing the original plebiscite proposal resubmitted to the Senate, but he predicted the crossbench would not budge.

The Victorian Liberal MP Russell Broadbent said the government should just maintain its original policy, not the postal vote, and the New South Wales MP Julian Leeser expressed concerns about the postal vote, arguing if the government tried hard enough, it would get the original proposal through.

"It's certainly better than ramming the thing through the parliament without any vote, but there could be questions about how authoritative it could be", Abbott told 2GB radio. "It would be very improper of us to abandon the clear commitment we took to the election for no change without a people's vote first".

Details were sketchy on Monday afternoon as to the format and legal basis for the postal vote, but it is understood the Government has advice a postal vote is legal.

A consistent majority of Australians have told pollsters they support same-sex marriage.

It comes after Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher warned at the weekend that Senator Smith's bill would not protect Australians' religious freedoms.

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