A POSSE of perturbed parents has descended on Canberra yesterday demanding politicians commit to legislate in favour of marriage equality should the measure be given the green light in a future plebiscite.
Dubbed the “mission for equality”, around 40 mums and dads from Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) from across the country travelled to the nation’s capital with national spokesperson Shelley Argent accusing Prime Minister Tony Abbott of shifting the goal posts on marriage equality.
[showads ad=MREC]Meanwhile, the cross-party marriage equality bill was debated in parliament today but is unlikely to come to a ballot with the Coalition obliged to vote against it.
Led by Argent, a coach load of mums and dads spent today meeting MPs and staffers from across the parties.
“The aim of the trip is to be a presence in Canberra and to let politicians know we’re not happy with the free vote being overlooked and we want action on marriage equality,” Argent told the Star Observer.
Following a Coalition party room meeting last month, Abbott announced a “people’s vote” on marriage equality would be held after the next election.
Many within the Coalition, including Attorney General George Brandis, have cautioned against a referendum as the constitution does not need to be changed for marriage equality to be legalised.
Argent said referendums were notoriously tricky to pass in Australia and the result “could become a legal nightmare”, while any form of a public vote could lead to a “hate campaign” with LGBTI children and their parents – gay or straight – the victim.
If a plebiscite was to occur, though, Argent said politicians had to agree to abide by a positive result.
“After spending $100 million on a plebiscite, it has to go back to parliament who aren’t compelled to do anything,” she said.
“We want reassurance around a plebiscite that if it does win [MPs will] legislate favourably.”
Argent criticised Abbott for apparently changing his position on how same-sex marriage could be legislated following his call for a cross-party bill and then subsequent decision to maintain the government’s stance that all Coalition cabinet MPs be forced to vote against the measure.
“Abbott and marriage equality is like the donkey and the carrot,” she said.
“Every time the donkey gets closer to the carrot, he moves the carrot.”
Anti-marriage equality campaigners putting children at the centre of their efforts also irked Argent.
“What part of ‘what about the children’ is gay marriage about?” she said.
“It’s about husband and wives not sons and daughters.
“If they’re really concerned about children they should be concerned about the children of same-sex couples and that they’re [currently] considered as second rate.”
Victorian Greens Senator and the party’s spokesperson on LGBTI issues Janet Rice said she concurred with the parents’ concerns.
“They shared their stories of love and support, highlighted that prejudice and discrimination against their sons and daughters are still too commonplace in Australia today, and spoke of the difference marriage equality would make to their families’ lives,” she said.
In the House of Representatives today, Brisbane federal Coalition MP Teresa Gambaro spoke in favour of the marriage equality bill championed by fellow Queenslander and Coalition MP Warren Entsch.
“To those who oppose this bill, or who are in some way threatened by it I say this – marriage is not a statement of moral superiority,” Gambaro said.
“Marriage is a simple statement of love and commitment. When did we forget that?”
With debate concluded in just 10 minutes, the bill now joins a further three marriage equality bills in legislative limbo.
The Australian Electoral Commission has stated that if a plebiscite — which is not legally binding — were to be conducted at the next Federal Election, it would cost an estimated $44 million. However, if the plebiscite were to be conducted on its own, it’s estimated it would cost $158 million.[showads ad=FOOT]