Labor's factional leaders are poised to strike a deal to declare the issue of same-sex marriage a conscience vote in order to defuse a potential brawl on the floor of December's national conference, reports the Australian.
They fear a divisive debate on the issue would dominate media coverage of the conference, creating the impression the Greens - advocates of same-sex marriage - are dictating the agenda of Labor's supreme policymaking body.
The move is also partly designed to shield Julia Gillard, who opposes same-sex marriage, from being rejected on the issue by her own party.
And it would potentially reduce the chance of any bill in favour of same-sex marriage passing through parliament.
The newspaper said sources have confirmed that consideration is being given to a deal under which the national executive - which meets each month and is the only party unit that can declare Labor MPs free to vote in accordance with their conscience - would declare the issue one of conscience before the December conference.
Another option has the conference moving for a conscience vote, which would subsequently be validated by the national executive.
Key Labor numbers men have told the Australian that, in a free vote, Labor would split, with a majority supporting the concept.
But they expected there would be sufficient opposition within the party's Right to augment widespread opposition among Coalition MPs and defeat the push.
Labor looks at conscience vote to defuse same-sex marriage split (The Australian)
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