A member of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s own Liberal Party yesterday introduced a marriage equality bill in defiance of Abbott’s mandate that all government MPs vote against any such attempt. The BBC reports:
The bill was introduced by government backbencher Warren Entsch, one of several government backbenchers who plan to defy Mr Abbott by crossing the floor of the parliament to vote in favour of marriage equality. Mr Abbott has said the matter should be “put to the people” in a non-binding plebiscite after the next general election, due in 2016. Meanwhile, cross bench senators have backed an Australian Greens bill calling for a gay marriage plebiscite before the election. In an impassioned speech, Mr Entsch spoke of how his bill, which has cross-party support, was designed to promote a more inclusive Australia. “Being gay is not a lifestyle choice,” the Queensland MP told the parliament. “This bill does not create different classes of marriage,” he said. “A divided nation is what we will be if we continue to allow discrimination in relation to marriage on the basis of a person’s sexuality.”
Abbott has threatened to fire any Coalition frontbenchers who defy him on gay marriage, but that threat apparently does not extend to backbenchers like Entsch. It appears unlikely that Entsch’s bill would be approved. Via ABC News:
Mr Entsch’s plans to introduce the bill triggered close to six hours of Coalition debate last week to thrash out the party’s position on a free vote. A clear majority — two thirds — of government MPs and senators voted to keep the existing position against a conscience vote, effectively confirming a bill would be defeated if it went to the floor of parliament. Before delivering his speech today, Mr Entsch embraced Labor co-sponsor Terri Butler and thanked her for providing support. The bill was also backed by another Labor MP Laurie Ferguson, Government backbencher Teresa Gambaro, Greens MP Adam Bandt and crossbenchers Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan. “We live in a modern society where women and Indigenous people have equal rights to vote, mixed-race marriages are acceptable and being gay is something not to be ashamed of,” Mr Entsch said.
Also yesterday, Abbott’s lesbian sister Christine Forster denounced her brother’s stand against marriage equality.
Forster, an elected Liberal party Councilor for the City of Sydney in NSW and vocal advocate for marriage reform, told CNN, it had been an “extremely emotional” week. “At a personal level it is disappointing because I am engaged to get married to my partner Virginia and I would like to be able to do that here in Australia and I would like to be able to do that sooner rather than later.” Forster, who was previously married to a man is now raising her four children with her partner Virginia, said she disagreed with the approach her brother had taken. She said she believed that a decision on whether or not to vote for gay marriage should be up to an individual, not a political party. “I have had some debates with some of my liberal colleagues who argue it’s (marriage equality) a civil right, not a human right, but my own view is that the right to be married goes very much to one’s humanity and I think that we all should be entitled to be equal before the law,” she added.
Watch Entsch’s excellent speech.