The Labor Party is gagging its politicians from talking about same-sex marriage in the lead-up to the federal election.
Neither WA Senator Louise Pratt nor Kingsford-Smith MP Peter Garrett could talk about their past support for the issue on record when contacted by Southern Star Observer, while Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby backed away from comments he made last week.
Danby had told a community forum in St Kilda, which was being taped by SBS Radio, “I’m not saying that at this election that I support changing the legislation for gay marriage.
“But it’s coming, and in the next government I will expect there will be serious movement within the Labor Party on that issue, and I know a number of other people apart from myself will be running with it.”
However, Danby later denied this was a reference to the next Labor Government.
“I did suggest that gay marriage was an issue which future governments would need to deal with and conceded that there were within the Labor Party, as within the Liberal Party, proponents of change to the current policy,” he said when contacted later.
Pratt was unable to comment over the phone and could only direct us to comments she made in support of marriage equality in 2008 and 2009, with a spokesperson saying the senator “[stood] by her comments”.
Garrett, who answered, “I don’t have a problem with it,” to a question about same-sex marriage on Channel 10 in 2006 went backwards when contacted by Southern Star Observer, communicating his support for the ALP’s policy against same-sex marriage in a statement.
“The Minister supports the Government’s position,” the statement read.
Garrett did not respond to a question about why his views had changed.
Kingsford-Smith Greens candidate Lindsay Shurey said she was not surprised by Garrett’s conflicting statements.
“It’s not only same-sex marriage that he’s flip-flopped on, so it doesn’t surprise me,” Shurey said.
“I don’t know if they gag their members, but they do seem to have to toe the party line.”
Sources told Southern Star Observer that non-incumbent candidates who had spoken out on the issue were also feeling the pressure.
Australian Marriage Equality national secretary Peter Furness said he was disappointed politicians could still not voice personal opinions on the issue.
“It’s 2010 and, given all the things happening overseas, what sort of state are we in where parties are coming down so hard on members who are speaking their mind on this kind of issue?” he said.