Immigration Minister Chris Bowen (pictured) made up his mind to oppose same-sex marriage after consulting just one family that supported it, a prominent gay lobbyist claims.
Australian Marriage Equality campaigner Nathan Thomas says he was told by the minister, who holds the NSW seat of McMahon, that he had heard from many people against gay marriage but that Thomas and his family were the only people to approach him in person to support it. He also said that, as a result, he had changed his mind on supporting marriage equality.
However, in a statement issued last week, Bowen claimed he had met with many people from both sides of the debate before making up his mind on the issue.
“During this time I have met with strong advocates of both positions from within my electorate and also more broadly,” the statement read.
Thomas told the Star Observer this was not what the minister had said during their last meeting.
“So no, it’s just us he’s spoken to, because we are the only supporters who have bothered to ask for a face-to-face meeting,” Thomas said.
When asked about the difference between his public statement and Thomas’ version of events, Bowen told the Star Observer he had spoken with others in favour of gay marriage outside his electorate.
“Mr Thomas is the only advocate I have met with on this issue who comes from my electorate,” Bowen said.
“Obviously I have received correspondence from others and spoken to others outside the electorate who support same-sex marriage.”
Thomas also claims that Bowen had previously told him he would come out in support of gay marriage when the time was right but had since changed his mind. Bowen would not confirm or deny if this was true.
“I don’t propose to go into details of private meetings I have,” he said.
Thomas said the case should serve as a warning that people needed to get more involved and actively lobby local MPs.
“It’s really time, it’s so winnable, everyone is saying it’s not but in fact it is, it’s within our grasp,” Thomas said.
“People have to fight for this if they want it.”
Bowen said he would oppose gay marriage because that was what the ALP had promised at the last election. He also said that his community was “overwhelmingly opposed” to the issue.
“As I made clear in my statement, I do not believe that there is broad community support in my electorate for same-sex marriage. Also, the position the ALP took to the 2010 election on this issue was clear,” he said.
Bowen declined to say what his personal view was on same-sex marriage.