GAY marriage could be legal in Australia this year under a new policy Liberal MPs have agreed on in an emergency party room meeting

Liberal backbenchers have overwhelmingly agreed to try for a second time to secure a plebiscite on marriage equality, despite an initial attempt being voted down by Labor and crossbench senators in November.

The government will put the legislation before Parliament this week, Turnbull Government Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed tonight.

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.

Labor and crossbench senators have already slammed the new plan, which appears doomed before it's even attempted.

Activists have also labelled the postal vote a 'bloody stupid idea' and vowed to launch a High Court challenge against any attempt to hold one.

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

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

Mr Shorten slammed the government for delaying the issue which could be sorted out "in five minutes" if the Liberal Party allowed a free vote.

Senate powerbroker Nick Xenophon, who voted against the first bill for a plebiscite, has also said he will not change his position.

Marriage Equality co-chair Alex Greenwich said there would be "disappointment felt from coast to coast" tonight after the government's decision.

"They had the opportunity to resolve this matter through a vote in Parliament and they said 'no," he said.

Senator Cormann said the Liberal Party was committed to holding a public vote.

"The government is absolutely committed to keep faith with the commitment that we

made to the Australian people and that is to give Australian people a say on whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed," Senator Cormann said.

News Corp Australia

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