AS the campaign for marriage equality gains momentum across Australia, I am still alarmed by the defences being used to argue against it — particularly from our elected officials.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s response in the wake of the historic US Supreme Court ruling that marriage equality is a constitutional right was to say that it’s a matter for the US, and that his view on the subject hasn’t changed.

[showads ad=MREC]When I heard that I felt like I was a child being chastised for wanting more lollies. I was offended, deeply offended.

The Prime Minister is an elected official who is supposed to ensure the will of the people is carried out by his government. According to Crosby Textor research 59 per cent of Australian Christians support marriage equality and 72 per cent of the broader Australian public support reform. So even though the majority of Australians are pro-reform, the Prime Minister is continuing to adhere to the beliefs of an irrelevant minority.

Why, Mr Abbott? Your position is not a vote winner.

Equally alarming but also just a little bit comedic was the recent rambling defence of the current state of the Marriage Act from Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz. Like a drunk old uncle on a tirade at Christmas, Senator Abetz stumbled from one tired point to another as he tried desperately to cling to any sense of logic he thought he once had. During one radio interview where he tried to suggest that the “Asian Century” was a serious reason to keep the status quo (don’t worry, I couldn’t figure it out either) I half expected him to finish his garbled message with a “now pull my finger” joke. It was just silly. Then, as if reading from a script, he wheeled out the “we have to think about the children” routine, that “children need a mother and a father”.

Oh, please. That old chestnut?

As Tom Ballard brilliantly said in his response to Senator Abetz in the Sydney Morning Herald: “It’d be tremendous if Eric could actually point us to some of these studies, because all I could find was organisations like the Australian Psychological Society, the American Psychological Association and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy all saying that there is no evidence that same-sex couples aren’t capable of raising happy and healthy children.”

Aside from the comical aspect, Senator Abetz’s random attack on marriage reform has revealed the deep divisions within the government on the issue. In response to the Senator’s calls for any government MP who doesn’t tow the party line to resign from the frontbench, Education Minister Christopher Pyne told Channel 9: “Calls for resignations are not helpful. He should express his conscience however he likes to express it. There are others within the party with a different view and they also need to be respected.”

Mr Pyne also said: “The Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear many times that everyone can have a different view on this matter.”

So then why won’t Mr Abbott allow the government a free vote on the issue? Is he concerned that marriage equality would become a reality and perhaps weaken his grip on the party leadership?

Allowing a private members bill to be debated in the parliament and voted on by members according to their conscience would show a level of maturity and bi-partisanship that has been lacking on both sides of politics in recent years. Who knows what the result will be. But one thing is for sure: Mr Abbott can’t say everyone has the right to an opinion and that it should be respected, when not allowing a vote is essentially saying that his opinion is the only one that really counts. Is that democracy?

As I write this, Federal Parliament is now on break until it reconvenes in Spring. I can only hope that as the weather starts to thaw, so too does the Prime Minister’s view on this important issue.

Whitney Fitzsimmons is a freelance journalist and TV presenter. She is a former ABC senior journalist and newsreader and presenter of Business Today on ABC News 24. She is a passionate supporter of marriage equality. Follow her on Twitter: @whitfitzsimmons

Australian Marriage Equality needs your support more than ever to achieve equal marriage rights across the country. To find out how, visit australianmarriageequality.org

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**This was first published in the August edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

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