Can we turn Tony Abbott & the Liberal Party on to Equal Marriage?

Kevin Ekendahl, Liberal candidate, Melbourne Ports

Kevin Ekendahl, Liberal candidate, Melbourne Ports

Tim Peppard of Australian Marriage Equality and Kevin Ekendahl , out gay Liberal candidate for Melbourne Ports, join me on the Rainbow Report tonight.

Speculation is rife that Tony Abbott – and therefore by extension, the Liberal Party – may change his mind on equal marriage. The Star Observer even weighed in on the issue.

At present he has set his face against allowing his members to vote with their consciences, on the grounds that the policy the party took to the last election was one of opposition.

Some Liberal MPs, notably Malcolm Turnbull, have made it plain they would vote for marriage equality if they were allowed a conscience vote. Kelly O’Dwyer, who took over Peter Costello’s old seat of Higgins, recently joined him, saying the party position would ‘evolve’. Yet more have indicated privately that they would follow their example. But . . . . . .

(It’s worth noting that, unlike Labor,  the Liberal Party does not make MPs who vote with the other side walk the plank, unless they’re in the Shadow Cabinet. So promises of ‘I’d vote with you if I could’ should be taken with a pinch of salt. A Jamie Oliver sized pinch.)

Various gay Liberals have been breathlessly hinting for months that a change is coming. I am told that 3 or 4 motions on the issue are being put forward for debate at the party conference.

Speculation that iron man ‘Tony WAS for Turning’ reached fever pitch ahead of the unveiling of the new ‘kinder gentler’ Abbott, chatting amiably with his lesbian sister on 60 minutes. But hot air is all it was. There were a few hints that he was still open to discussion, but no sign of movement.

So far it all looks likes nothing more than a Liberal attempt to capture reluctant gay Labor voters who would be more at home politically in the Liberals it it weren’t for their – so far – unyieldingly anti-gay stance.

Tony Abbott’s Christine Forster, herself an out lesbian, said

My relationship with Virginia has caused my brother to pause and reflect on the Marriage Act. Although Tony hasn’t changed his mind, I’ve warned him to expect a lot more conversations with me on this issue in the years ahead. I hope thousands of others will work on all the Members who voted no as well as saying thanks to the 42 who said yes.

She said we should be focusing, not on the party leaders, nor on those who already support us, but on the MPs who voted ‘no’.

That’s what Tim Peppard, co-convenor of Australian Marriage Equality Victoria, wants us to do. AME is planning a blitz during this interminable election campaign, highlighting the voting record of MPs who voted against us even though their electorates support marriage equality.

One such is Michael Danby, Labor member for Melbourne Ports. His Liberal opponent, Kevin Ekendahl, is not just pro marriage equality, he’s an out gay man himself. He’s been working inside the Libs for a change of policy.

Join us tonight 7pm AEDST on Joy 94.9: live online via the Joy website or the smartphone app.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)