Advocates for equality in Gippsland are grappling with the reality the next opportunity to legalise gay marriage may not occur until after a 2016 federal election.
Debate continued to rage in Federal Parliament over the issue yesterday, after a snap Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday night convincingly killed off moves to hold a conscience vote on the issue, with supporters losing two-to-one.
Speaking “strongly” for a free vote at the meeting – where he was only one of three National party members speaking in support of the move – Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said he was accepting of the outcome.
“That was a day I won’t forget in a hurry. I spoke in support of a free vote on same-sex marriage and will continue to advocate change,” Mr Chester announced on Twitter shortly afterwards.
“Australia is on a journey on the issue of marriage equality, and I will continue to participate in the debate in a respectful and moderate manner.”
Mr Chester said he would continue to advocate for a plebiscite – a non-binding public referendum – to be held the next election
He has supported a plebiscite since before the 2013 federal election.
In a day of fierce fallout and debate which followed, Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned any Coalition frontbencher who crossed the parliamentary floor to vote on a current cross-party bill to legalise same-sex marriage would be demoted.
Despite crossing the parliamentary floor on asylum seeker policy in 2006, Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent implored his back-bench colleagues not to do the same on this issue.
“I’m a person that’s crossed the floor before, but I wouldn’t like to see people pressed to cross the floor on this issue,” Mr Broadbent said.
Gippsland Rainbow Collective spokeswoman Jo Parker said it was highly disappointing politicians were being discouraged against crossing the floor for what they believed in.
Ms Parker said it was “ludicrous” same-sex couples could have to wait until after the next federal election for an outcome.
“For goodness sake we’re in 2015,” she said.
“We are supposed to be a secular society that is a modern progressive country, but we are regressing into a country of second class citizens and inequality.
“Its f***ing frustrating, I just want to get married. I’ve been together with my partner for 13 years – if that’s not a commitment I don’t know what is.”