On Monday night Australian Marriage Equality (AME) met with the federal independents over dinner, along with marriage equality supporters from their electorates.
Well three of them at least. Bob Katter couldn’t get a flight out of Mount Isa and a separate dinner will now be arranged with him.
Tasmania’s Andrew Wilkie is already on side, and by all accounts discussions with Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor went well – though neither is as yet ready to signal that they would vote to change the Marriage Act.
Back in August when some MPs reported back on consultations with constituents on the issue thanks to a 2010 motion by the Greens, Oakeshott implied that he personally supported reform on the issue but didn’t think his electorate of Lyne was with him yet.
“There are times to lead and times to follow the community,” Oakeshott said. “Picking when and why is very much the challenge for all of us in a representative democracy … At all times, right or wrong, a member of Parliament should make their own best judgements.
“On an issue like pricing carbon … I have chosen to lead community with the national interest in mind. On the issue of same-sex marriage, I am choosing to follow community.”
Back then Oakeshott reported that voters were 40 percent opposed, 40 percent indifferent and 20 percent in favour.
Windsor did not take part in the report back, and has not released the results of his consultation with voters in New England despite becoming one of the first MPs to announce he would do so in November last year.
He has previously said that the word ‘marriage’ would be the issue in his electorate, and suggesting he would be more comfortable backing civil unions.
Windsor has also been attacked by the National Party on the issue who are keen to retake his seat.
However AME’s national convenor Alex Greenwich has told me that he and Rodney Croome came away from the meeting feeling more positive than ever before.
The Star Observer understands both MPs have been lobbied heavily from religious opponents on the issue.
Reassurances that churches would not be required to marry same-sex couples against their faith will give them a message to take back to their electorates.
These are the two crucial votes we will need to pass any legislation through the House of Representatives if the ALP adopts same-sex marriage as a binding policy.
They’re not all the way yet but we are definitely getting closer.