Melbourne Labor candidate Cath Bowtell says she is committed to bringing same-sex marriage to the forefront of her party’s agenda should be be elected.

Seeking to replace Lindsay Tanner in the marginal seat, the WorkSafe Victoria executive director told Southern Star she will stand on a platform of “equal treatment”, which includes support same-sex marriage.

“The issue of equal treatment is at the heart of what I’ve done for the last 25 years …  it is a thing I will always work for,” Bowtell said.

Bowtell will join protesters on August 14 at the State Library in Swanston St to call on her own party to support same-sex marriage.

Bowtell said she had no concerns speaking out publicly against party policy.

“While I recognise there is quite a lot of debate within the community and within the Labor Party … one of the things very important to me that we have a society that treats people with equality and equal rights,” she said.

“I’m very comfortable saying I’ll have that discussion with my colleagues if I’m elected and try and convince them of the views I hold.”

Bowtell, however concedes she would be bound by Labor policy – which currently opposes gay marriage – if a bill amending the Marriage Act came before parliament.

“If [the electorate] have elected me they have elected someone who’s a Labor Party person and who’s therefore committed to Labor Party process, Labor Party policies and platforms” she said.

“I don’t think the crossing the floor issue is the one you need to focus on, the issue you need to focus on is how do we continue the momentum and build a case for reform.”

Bowtell, a lead union negotiator in the development of the Fair Work Act, said she was “enormously proud” to be able to include workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the Act for the first time.

The seat of Melbourne has been held by Labor since 1904, however Bowtell is likely to have a tough fight on her hands with Greens candidate Adam Bandt, who says a vote for Labor is a vote for a party that opposes gay marriage.

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