Australia's Prime Minster signals support for amendments protecting religious freedom in same-sex marriage bill

(AAP/Mick Tsikas/via REUTERS)Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reacts during a media conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, August 18, 2017.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has vowed that he will continue to push for amendments that will provide protections to people who might have objections to same-sex marriage because of their religious beliefs.

Last week, Australia's upper house approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, but lawmakers rejected amendments that would allow religious objectors to opt out of participating in such nuptials.

Turnbull said that he will support amendments that would provide religious protections when the measure advances to the lower house this week. But he acknowledged that the bill, introduced by Liberal senator Dean Smith, does not contain any provision that would force celebrants to oversee weddings against their will or strip charities of their legal status.

"A lot of the amendments we're talking about are really providing assurance that things that are unintended consequences are not going to occur," the prime minister told Sky News on Sunday.

"(We should) make it clear there is nothing in the bill that prevents or inhibits or hinders anyone from expressing their views about what is the ... morally right form of marriage," he added.

The prime minister explained to the parliament that there is a "sincere, heartfelt anxiety about the bill's impact on religious freedom," so he is supporting several amendments that will provide "additional reassurance" with regards to the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of Australians.

Major political parties in Australia want the measure to pass this week, but the reform could be delayed if the House of Representatives supports the proposed amendments, as the altered bill would have to be returned to the Senate for ratification.

During a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, Turnbull and his predecessor, Tony Abbott, reportedly clashed over a proposal to add a "pious amendment" to the bill.

Abbott had proposed a motion, which would not alter the bill, that would declare that nobody should "suffer any adverse effects" from their beliefs about marriage.

Turnbull and Abbott reportedly had a "heated" exchange over the proposal before the prime minister eventually stressed that he would not support it.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Tuesday that cabinet ministers have expressed plans to ignore Turnbull's lead and oppose all the amendments to the same-sex marriage bill.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said that the proposed amendments were unnecessary and superfluous, adding that the unamended bill already protected religious freedom.

"I do not support the insertion of unnecessary amendments," he said. "Acts of Parliament should not contain superfluous clauses - especially superfluous clauses based on the opinion that Australia's laws don't adequately protect the religious freedoms that we have cherished since Federation. I firmly believe that they do," he added.

Alex Greenwich, co-chair of the Equality Campaign, expressed his gratitude to lawmakers who are opposing the amendments, saying they are ensuring that the government fulfills its promise to legalize same-sex marriage this week.

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