Gay and lesbian rights ally and the Nationals’ Orange MP Russell Turner has given his valedictory speech in the NSW Parliament before retiring at the next election.

Turner told the Legislative Assembly, “the issue that without doubt has had the most profound impact on my life as a pollie has been equal rights for gay and lesbian members of our society”.

Turner thanked his son Scott, who is openly gay and who owns a business in Orange with his partner, for opening his eyes on the issue.

“I am proud of my involvement and the part that I have played in changing the thinking and the philosophy, but not necessarily their vote, of most of my Nationals colleagues on this issue,” he said.

Turner told the Star Observer he knew there remained issues of reform still needed by the gay and lesbian community. But approaching 70, he thought it was time to pass the baton to someone younger, particularly when it appeared the Coalition could take power at the next election.

When asked if Andrew Gee, the Nationals’ preselected candidate for Orange, would be a friend to the gay and lesbian community, Turner said, “I would hope so.”

“Conversations I’ve had with my likely successor have indicated that he will be equally sympathetic and will make sure we keep the push going to get equality within our society.”

Turner thanked NSW Nationals leader Andrew Stoner for allowing a conscience vote on recent gay rights reforms in Parliament, despite disagreeing them with himself.

He still hoped to convince colleagues that gay rights could be a winner in regional electorates.

In Turner’s case his margin in holding the seat had gone from four to 17 percent since becoming a vocal advocate for gay and lesbian equality.

He said politicians had to factor in friends of gays and lesbians when calculating the real power of the gay vote.

Turner hoped Trevor Khan would continue his legacy of acceptance for gays and lesbians within the Nationals in the Legislative Council.

Reacting to Turner’s imminent retirement, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Rathana Chea said that he would be well missed.

“The GLRL is thankful for Mr Turner’s courage and support of the lesbian and gay community during his time in office,” Chea said.

“It is hoped that his legacy will inspire other MPs from his party, the National Party, and MPs across the political spectrum to act and think with same kind of integrity and respect for equality.”

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