We’re not going to sugarcoat this – yesterday’s MP feedback session in Parliament on the gay marriage issue was a tough setback for marriage equality.
But of the thirty MPs who reported back to Federal Parliament, the vast majority said their electorates were opposed to marriage law reform, citing a high levels of correspondence they’d received knocking back the idea of gay marriage for various reasons.
For some of them, it was the first time they’d spoken publicly on a topic they’d been reluctant to acknowledge was even an issue. Several said they considered a ‘civil union’-type scheme to be an option for same-sex instead of redefining marriage.
Kooyong’s Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg’s view was typical of most. He said: “My view is that marriage is a unique relationship between a man and a woman. It is much more than a simple debate about preferred terminology. Relationships between same-sex couples are equally special but nevertheless by definition different.”
But he added that correspondence he’d received from gay couples and parents of gay children “were all powerful pleas that had an impact on me.” Frydenberg’s full speech is here.
But it wasn’t all bad news. Several MPs said they still hadn’t made up their minds of the issue. Labor MP Catherine King suggested she was being swayed. ” I am on the public record of supporting the current definition of marriage,” she explained, “but I have to say that belief has been fundamentally challenged by the representations I’ve had by same sex couples.”
Malcolm Turnball added that his electorate in Sydney reported strong support for marriage reform, while lobby group GetUp! handed over its petition signed by over 55,000 people who want marriage equality.
Australia’s foremost marriage equality activists have found little to smile about in yesterday’s result, but stress that while a vocal minority may well be writing letters to their MPs, a range of recent opinion polls show a majority of Australians believe same sex couples should be allowed to marry.
Australian Marriage Equality spokesperson Peter Furness congratulated those MPs who consulted in their electorates.
“We are pleased many tens of thousands of Australians have contacted their MPs to express their support for equality, but clearly there are many who have yet to raise their voices and it remains our job to encourage them,” he says.
“It was particularly pleasing to see MPs comment on the quality and heart-felt nature of many of the letters they received from supporters of equality in their electorates.”
“Our focus now is on the ALP National Conference and ensuring the strong support for this issue among the ALP rank and file is reflected in a new party platform supporting equality,” he adds.
Earlier this week PM Julia Gillard met with marriage equality activists to chat about the marriage issue. See the photo and update here.