PFLAG Australia national spokeswoman Shelley Argent has written to all Liberal and National members of the Federal Parliament, urging them to apply pressure on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to allow a conscience vote on same-sex marriage after a shadow cabinet meeting decided against allowing MPs a free vote.
In a letter seen by the Star Observer, Argent wrote, “This issue should not be about politics and one upmanship.
“Lesbians and gays (our sons and daughters) lives and wellbeing will be affected by the outcome and I urge you to encourage other MPs to lobby Mr Abbott about permitting a conscience vote, regardless of whether you favour equality or not. It’s about democracy.
“We know and you know, that many members of your political party are in favour of equality and we feel it’s most important that Mr Abbott understand that all voices be heard, not just his.
“As a parent of a gay male, who was a sergeant of police in Queensland and now works at the Sydney Opera House in business continuity and disaster management, I want him to have the same rights as his brother, cousins and society generally. He and every other lesbian and gay person deserve the same rights and respect of their relationships, which include the right and choice to marry.
“Personally, I hate going to weddings because instead of it being a time of celebration, to me it’s a blatant reminder that James, my gay son is seen as second rate because unless laws change he will never have the privilege of celebrating his relationship in the same manner just because he was born gay. Times are changing. Conservative religious countries overseas are permitting same sex couples to marry. Why not Australia?”
The letter from Argent follows a meeting by the shadow cabinet in which a conscience vote was decided against, despite a third of the shadow cabinet being in favour of one.
The Star Observer understands those members of the shadow cabinet pushing for a conscience vote were the Liberals’ Malcolm Turnbull, Joe Hockey, George Brandis, Christopher Pyne, Greg Hunt, Bruce Billson and the Nationals’ Nigel Scullion.
Previous media reports have suggested as many as 12 Coalition members would be willing to vote in support of same-sex marriage in a free vote.
Abbott has previously suggested that Coalition MPs could cross the floor to vote against the party line on the issue without fear of punishment. However shadow ministers would have to resign their portfolios to do so to avoid breaking cabinet solidarity, making it unlikely that anyone from the front bench would do so in the absence of a formal conscience vote.