Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie has placed a conscience vote on same-sex marriage on a wish list of demands sent to both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott.
Wilkie has been on the record as a supporter of same-sex marriage since running as a Greens candidate in the 2004 federal election. He joins Green Adam Bandt in the House of Representatives as another vocal supporter.
Australian Marriage Equality wrote to Wilkie and the three rural independents asking them to support such a vote.
AME national spokesman Alex Greenwich said it was uncertain if a conscience vote would be successful, but without a free vote the issue would not be properly debated.
“If the independents truly believe the next Parliament should be a more open and transparent forum for debating key public issues they will insist on a conscience vote on marriage equality,” Greenwich said.
“A conscience vote will allow the large number of Labor and Liberal MPs who support equality to better represent the majority of Australians who do too.”
ALSO Foundation CEO Crusader Hillis welcomed Wilkie’s push for a conscience vote, saying it was a good opportunity for Parliament to reflect the “will of the population”.
“It would definitely be a breakthrough if the numbers of Labor MPs and Liberals who actually do support the issue against what their party policy says were able to voice that,” he told Southern Star Observer.
Hillis said he was not overly concerned a loss on a conscience vote would greatly affect any future push for same-sex marriage.
Wilkie has indicated he will announce which of the major parties he will support to form Government this week, leaving the final decision to independents Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Bob Katter.
Asked about how sympathetic they were likely to be to GLBT rights, Australian Coalition for Equality national spokesman Corey Irlam told Southern Star Observer, “Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott both have a previous voting history of supporting same-sex law reform.
“We would hope to think that with issues like federal anti-discrimination laws appearing before this Parliament they will continue that history.”
But Irlam said it was unknown whether Oakeshott and Windsor would support same-sex marriage.
Considering independent Bob Katters’ history of homophobic statements, Irlam said that hope was “limited” for him.
In 1994 Katter famously said, “If the poof population of north Queensland is any more than 0.001 per cent, I’ll walk to Bourke backwards.”
Katter made similar statements again in 2005 responding to the release of the film Brokeback Mountain.
The independents have indicated they are prepared to split from each other in deciding who forms Government. Oakeshott and Windsor have a history of voting with the Labor Party in the House of Representatives, while Katter has a history of voting with the Coalition.