A South Australian Labor MLC has delivered a stinging attack on the federal ALP over its ban on same-sex marriage after he was prevented by his party from moving a bill to legalise same-sex marriage under state law.

Ian Hunter, who is openly gay, called the policy “odious” and “morally bankrupt”, comparing it to the White Australia policy, which he termed “a shameful blot on the ALP’s soul”.

Referring to the federal Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Penny Wong, Hunter said he was thankful he was not a minister and therefore restricted from speaking on issues outside his portfolio or forced to publicly support policies he privately felt were wrong.

Hunter told state Parliament that marriage was “a public declaration of love and commitment that is an extremely powerful cultural institution”.

“Homosexuals want to marry for the same reason everyone else does it: because they love someone,” he said.

“Australia enjoys freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Therefore, arguments based on religion have no place in this debate … A private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples is not a proper basis for legislation.”

On the same day, South Australian Greens MLC Tammy Franks successfully moved an identical bill, noting the problems that other forms of recognition had for couples.

“In the absence of a marriage certificate, they can have problems proving their legal entitlements,” Franks said.

“This can be a problem in medical emergencies and where a partner has a decision-making role for the other … and the rights of partners in civil unions or in de facto relationships are often not widely understood or respected.”

Franks noted that churches that wished to marry same-sex couples were also discriminated against by the law as it stood.

Appealing to fiscal conservatives, Franks reminded Parliament of the estimated $7 billion benefit to the economy if just over half the same-sex couples who wanted to marry did so, and that corporations including the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac, IBM, Qantas and ING had come out in favour of same-sex marriage.

Franks told the Star Observer she expected a vote on the bill to be held in spring before the federal ALP Conference and hoped it would add weight to the issue there as federal legislation was the ultimate goal.

“However, if a federal law is not possible then I will take a South Australian law,” she said.

Hunter agreed that federal marriage equality was the ultimate goal, but said for him, the bill’s usefulness was as a “prompt for discussion and debate, and to goad the federal ALP into doing something”.

Hunter’s comments came on the same day that the federal Member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek, announced the results of her consultation with her electorate and a Victorian MP used his maiden speech to call for marriage equality.

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