It seems quite firm: the future of same s-x rights entitlements is in the hands of Prime Minister John Howard.

The issue will be a test of the PM’s pragmatism.

Past polling by GetUp! suggests his beloved mainstream well and truly supports same s-x entitlements. It’s interesting to note that Jim Wallace and the much-vilified Australian Christian Lobby are not opposed, either.

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The more conservative Christians will never switch their votes to Labor, so there is no need for the PM to appease them.

The issue directly threatens one of his ministers and a key future figure for the Liberal Party – Malcolm Turnbull. Will the PM support him, or is he in full “après moi, le deluge” mode?

Veteran activist Rodney Croome canvasses the state of play over at his blog:

It seems Philip Ruddock’s Cabinet submission in favour of granting some entitlements sparked quite a long and passionate debate, but there was no resolution and the matter was deferred indefinitely.

I’m told Ruddock, John Howard and most others sided with reform. But they couldn’t persuade Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews and some recalcitrant Nationals who frequently cited an anti-reform letter-writing campaign to justify their position.

I understand supporters of reform within the Government are hopeful the issue will be revisited, and an announcement made, before the election…

Powerful Prime Ministers like John Howard are not usually thwarted by fretful National MPs or even intimidated by bulk church emails…

The delay has been condemned by the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, according to today’s Sydney Star Observer.

The Lobby would use the delay to meet with more Cabinet ministers including Treasurer Peter Costello and Finance Minister Nick Minchin, spokesman Ghassan Kassisieh has told the SSO.

The Star Observer quotes a spokeswoman for reform supporter Warren Entsch as saying the delay was an opportunity for the friends and family of gays and lesbians to lobby the Howard Government.

Who sits where? Here’s your Crikey cut out ‘n’ keep guide:

For equal rights Against In the closet
John Howard Tony Abbot Mark Vaile
Nick Minchin Kevin Andrews Peter Costello
Philip Ruddock Alexander Downer
Brendan Nelson Warren Truss
Malcolm Turnbull Helen Coonan
Joe Hockey Ian Macfarlane
Chris Ellison
Peter McGauran
Mal Brough
Julie Bishop

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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