LEICHHARDT federal Coalition MP Warren Entsch, whose bill to legalise same-sex marriage is due to be lodged in parliament next week, has said he revels in confounding expectations that a “crocodile farming, raging red neck” could be a strong advocate for LGBTI equality.
Talking to the Star Observer last month following his return from Vietnam to look at programs funded by the Australian Government through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Liberal-National MP from far north Queensland also said he would not be goaded into responding to opponents of marriage equality.
[showads ad=MREC]During his trip to Vietnam, Entsch met members of Ho Chi Minh City’s trans* community who discussed their struggles in seeking medical and emotional support.
“I listened to them and I could have been listening to someone sitting in front of me in Cairns or anywhere,” said Entsch, who has urged the Global Fund to help set up a counselling service for trans* people in Vietnam.
“The same concerns, the same fears and the same hopes and aspirations in relation to acceptance.”
Closer to home, Entsch said plans for his private members bill, which could be tabled as early as next Tuesday, hadn’t changed despite controversial statements by anti-marriage equality campaigners.
Last month, Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz wondered whether same-sex marriage would open the door to polyamory while NSW Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce suggested neighbouring Asian countries might find the measure “decadent”.
“Nothing’s changed, I’ve got no attention of changing anything,” Entsch told the Star Observer.
“I know that some of our friends from the other side are jumping up and down and making all sorts of interesting comments.
“I’m not going to be baited by the comments, I’m going to give them their moment in the sunshine and I think the time to do the debate is when the bill hits the table and then they’ve got something of substance they can discuss.
“We’ll just present our case at the right time and give the parliament an opportunity to make the decision.”
Entsch said his passion for LGBTI equality surprised some given his background.
“Far northern Queensland, crocodile farmer, Liberal,” he said.
“Mate, I’m an absolute red neck on all the boxes you tick.”
He said while he didn’t agree with his own caricature, he wasn’t fazed by it: “I’m glad to be a redneck LGBTI advocate, I’m more than proud of that… [but] I refuse point blank to give any sort of confirmation as to my sexuality and for that matter whether I’ve got a red, green, blue or bloody purple neck.”
Entsch, who is married, said some people found him difficult to pin down.
“I’ve been described as everything from fiercely heterosexual to limp-wristed gay so I’m the whole range,” he said.
“I always make the point I am whatever you feel comfortable in me being… because at the end of the day my sexuality has got absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with my advocacy.”
Entsch said he was able to take people out of their comfort zone and push for LGBTI rights precisely because he was hard to categorise and “everything I’m not supposed to be”.
“I’m out and I’m proud and I’m loud and I have had the most amazing array of gender diverse individuals in my office at different times and I am so proud of them,” he said.[showads ad=FOOT]