LNP Brisbane MP Teresa Gambaro (pictured) has come out in support of marriage equality and said she will lobby Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to allow a conscience vote on the issue after the next election.
Gambaro announced her changed position at a candidates forum at the Brisbane Powerhouse on Thursday night, saying she has become “infuriated” with how the issue has become the plaything of politics.
“Should I be honoured by the people of Brisbane and re-elected to this seat, my conscience vote will be in favor of same-sex marriage,” Gambaro said.
Gambaro elaborated on her newfound position shortly after, posting a “Statement on Same-sex Marriage” on her website yesterday.
“This is a highly emotional and personal issue and in my view, marriage should not be anybody’s political play thing. Marriage is not about politics. And sadly it has been used as a political wedge during this campaign. Government has no place in either defining love or telling people who they can love,” the statement reads.
“I have made this decision because my personal journey in speaking with people touched by this issue communicated to me as I have been door knocking and meeting with people in my electorate. All I can say to everyone is this – who people choose to love is not a decision for government and people should be free to love who they want free of discrimination, bias and prejudice.”
While Gambaro voted against a same-sex marriage bill brought before Parliament in 2012, she has made statements in the past reflecting a level of personal support for the reform. In a November 2010 speech to Parliament, Gambaro said that “same-sex couples rightfully demand the practical benefits and social respect that heterosexual couples enjoy.
“I believe those in my electorate of Brisbane would demand such equal rights are adhered to and I support the views in the community in relation to any proposed changes to the specific definition of marriage,” Gambaro said at the time. Her speech prompted criticism from local religious leaders.
Gambaro holds the inner-city seat of Brisbane on a thin margin of 1.1 percent, and has long been a favourite target of marriage equality campaigners seeking to pressure likely Coalition politicians into openly declaring their support for same-sex marriage.
Gambaro told Fairfax Media that while a 2010 poll of her electorate found that only 0.7 percent of local voters supported marriage equality, she changed her mind on the issue after talking with an Ashgrove mother at an information booth.
“I guess that was the crystallising moment…but I guess it has been a long journey. Should it be taken to the party room I would advocate for a conscience vote and I would be supportive of gay marriage.”
LGBT rights campaigners were quick to congratulate Gambaro on her changed stance, with Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national director Rodney Croome saying the news would “increase pressure on the Coalition” to allow a conscience vote after the election.
“We thank Teresa Gambaro for her stand in favour of a reform that is good for families and good for Australia. It’s great to see her join her Liberal colleagues like Malcolm Turnbull, Wyatt Roy, Sue Boyce and Kelly O’Dwyer on the right side of history,” Croome said.
Gambaro’s announcement comes just a week after AME announced it would be targeting Brisbane as a key seat in its national election campaign. AME claims to have distributed almost 70,000 leaflets over the electorate over the August 17-18 weekend urging voter to contact Gambaro’s office with their messages of support for equal marriage.
AME will also target the electorates of North Sydney, Curtin, Sturt and Wills to put pressure on their respective Liberal MPs Joe Hockey, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne and Kelvin Thompson, who are seen as potential Coalition supporters of equal marriage.