The gay community says it has lost a sympathetic ear with the departure of federal finance minister and Melbourne MP Lindsay Tanner.

Amid a historic week in politics when Australia got its first female PM, Tanner quietly announced he would not recontest his seat at the upcoming election, citing family reasons.

Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich told Sydney Star Observer that although Tanner had not budged publicly on the issue of same-sex marriage, the community had lost a supporter.

“I think Lindsay Tanner is widely recognised by the gay and lesbian community … he did do a lot of work for us in certain areas and he was a sympathetic ear,” Greenwhich said.

“On the issue of marriage, it’s been very clear he’s decided to toe his party line.

“Obviously being a member of the Labor Party and indeed one of the senior members of the Labor Party … he was someone who wasn’t going to change his position.”

Speaking at the Melbourne Wear It With Pride launch last month, Tanner said he had been encouraged by positive changes made over the last few decades for the gay and lesbian community.

“There is more to be done, and from time to time we are criticised for not doing more and that’s fair enough,” he said on June 4.

“I always seek to remind people that the parliamentary debate which finally ended the criminalisation of homosexual acts in Australia, I spoke in that debate, it wasn’t very long ago, it was 1994.

“I think we can all collectively take great heart from the fact that although there’s still more to be done … we have made a lot of progress over that time.”

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby convenor Dr Anthony Bendall said Tanner’s departure would be a loss for the community.

“He was a strong advocate of our rights and was one of our strongest allies in [Labor] caucus,” he said.

Tanner’s departure leaves the seat of Melbourne open, with Greens candidate Adam Bandt considered a strong candidate to give the party its first federal lower house seat.

A new Labor candidate is yet to be announced.

Tanner was facing a tough election campaign with AME vowing to make sure same-sex marriage was on the agenda by leafleting the electorate.

Greenwich said leafleting had been put on hold as Prime Minister Julia Gillard settles into her new role.

“It’s a wait and see situation,” Greenwich said. “We have written to the prime minister requesting a meeting for a way forward for us.”

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