A South Australian Labor MP has broken party ranks on gay marriage and called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to engage in debate on marriage equality.

Hot on the heels of a poll which suggests most Australians would support same-sex marriage, state upper house MP Ian Hunter addressed South Australian Parliament last week in a speech giving his position on the issue.

Hunter spoke of his partner of almost 20 years, Leith Semmens, and his desire to marry him.
I want to get married -” and you, Mr Rudd, are stopping me, he said in Parliament.

Galaxy poll findings released last week by Greens Senator Bob Brown and lobby group Australian Marriage Equality indicated 60 percent of Australians are in favour of same-sex marriage.

I am no longer content to accept the crumbs from the table… I am no longer prepared to accept a proposition that my married friends’ relationships are intrinsically superior to my relationship; and I certainly won’t accept the proposal that means my relationship is registered at the local council or some similar body. he said.

Hunter told the Star he’d been working on a draft speech for some time and it was his first opportunity to have his say.

I’m hopeful as debate mounts that others in Parliament will change their minds as they start to hear some of the personal stories and how it impacts on our lives, he said.

There is something about having a celebration and making those public vows to each other. I think it’s very important in my life and I’d like to be able to do it.

Wary of a federal civil union scheme, Hunter said he is firmly positioned on marriage rights for same-sex couples.

If civil unions were available to gay and straight, and [couples] were allowed to have a celebrant and conduct a ceremony just like everybody else who doesn’t get married in a church, then I’d look at it.

What I don’t want is separate but equal. I don’t want marriage for straights and -˜you gays can have civil unions’. I want something everyone can have.

Hunter will not attend the ALP national conference in Sydney next month. Apart from rallying close colleagues, this is the first time he’s made a public stand in his current position.

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