LABOR MP Michael Danby has defended his position as a supporter of marriage equality after he was criticised for handing out how to vote cards that preference the Liberal candidate for his Melbourne Ports electorate over the Greens’ candidate.

The move caused the Greens to worry this may increase the chances of a plebiscite on marriage equality after the federal election on July 2.

But Danby dismissed the concerns as he has been “one of the most vigorous supporters of marriage equality” for many years and helped get opposition leader Bill Shorten to agree to reintroduce a Marriage Equality Bill last year.

He has also campaigned for marriage equality at pride marches in St Kilda, hosted a marriage equality forum a few months ago with Senator Penny Wong and Carl Katter, and moved and seconded the removal of discriminatory legislation against the LGBTI community.

“Voters in Melbourne Ports are a highly intelligent lot, and have always shown me that they exercise their own choice as to who they vote for and how they allocate their preferences,” Danby said in a statement.

“My mission in this election is to maximise the vote in Melbourne Ports for the Labor Party – with the aim of electing a Bill Shorten Labor Government. A Labor Government is the only way Marriage Equality will be passed in law without a plebiscite ­ and we will do it, within 100 days.

“And with the support of the very diverse community of voters in Melbourne Ports, I will be there to proudly vote in favour it.”

However, Melbourne Ports Greens candidate Steph Hodgins-May believes Danby’s decision to preference the Liberal Party ahead of the Greens would cer setbacks for marriage equality.

“Melbourne Ports is a tight three-way contest,” she said.

“Labor MP Michael Danby’s preferences decision could hand the seat to the Liberals, who want a plebiscite on marriage equality.

“The Greens oppose the plebiscite and won’t do anything to risk the re-election of a Liberal government.”

The official how to vote card authorised by Victorian Labor preferences the Greens at five, and the Liberals at seven.

However, a card with Danby’s authorisation on it places Liberal candidate Owen Guest at five and Hodgins-May at seven.

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