GAY Liberal federal politician Dean Smith has declared his public support for marriage equality, changing his position in the wake of Tori Johnson’s death during the Sydney siege.

Speaking to Fairfax Media, Smith said knowing that Johnson was killed before he was able to marry his partner of 14 years — if he had wanted to — caused him to be “overcome with sadness”.

Smith made his opposition to marriage equality public in 2012 when he was sworn in as a Western Australian senator, becoming the first openly-gay federal MP in the Liberal Party.

Advocates have congratulated Smith on his change of heart, saying his argument for doing so shows how marriage equality can be compatible with conservative values.

“Senator Smith has put forward the most compelling case yet for a Coalition free vote on marriage equality by pointing out that heroes like Tori Johnson should not be treated like second-class citizens,” Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said.

“Senator Smith’s change of heart is also compelling because of his strong record in defence of traditional values. He is effectively saying to his colleagues that allowing same-sex couples to marry upholds family values and tradition rather than undermining them.”

Despite his only recent change of heart, Smith has lobbied within his party for a conscience vote on marriage equality for several years, believing a free vote to be in line with the values of the party.

Only a small number of Liberal Party MPs have publicly stated their support for marriage equality, and Smith said a parliamentary vote on the issue should wait until there is broader consensus.

Smith is known to be staunchly conservative, a devout Christian and a monarchist.

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