Marriage equality advocate throws support behind Greens’ Harris
In what some may view as a surprise, the founding convener of lobby group Australian Marriage Equality (AME) has decided to throw his support behind Greens candidate Chris Harris for next weekend’s by-election for the state seat of Sydney.
La Trobe University sociologist Luke Gahan was the original convener of the now well-known campaign group for equal marriage rights when it was formed back in 2004.
He told SX this week that with Labor not running a candidate he would be publicly endorsing Harris (pictured) and not recent AME convener Alex Greenwich who is also running in the by-election as an independent after standing down from his position with the lobby group late last month.
“As a Labor voter and supporter I believe Chris is the only candidate that is aligned to the values that I stand for,” Gahan said.
“Of all the candidates running for Sydney Chris is the only one that I can truly trust.”
Greenwich however has fired back today, telling SX the views of Gahan must be considered in the context of him being a "destabilising" influence on the continuing marriage equality campaign and someone who has not been actively involved with AME for quite some time.
Harris, a former City of Sydney councillor, is currently considered third favourite for the seat behind Greenwich and the Liberal Party’s Shayne Mallard.
Gahan told SX the choice to publicly support Harris was simple considering his past assistance on marriage equality reform and the Greens’ longstanding support for the LGBTI community.
“When we began AME in 2004 very few people took our campaign seriously and even fewer provided our new movement with support.
“Chris Harris and the Sydney Greens stood beside us from day one – supporting same-sex marriage before it was the popular thing to do,” he said.
“Without their unconditional support for marriage equality our movement would never have got off the ground.”
Greenwich told SX he was proud of his record with AME and his achievements.
“Luke has been a destabilising force within the marriage equality campaign.
“He has actively campaigned against state-based same-sex marriage and is someone who has not been a member of the organisation for a very long time,” he said.
“Marriage equality supporters know my record of progressing the reform from impossible when Luke was the convener to inevitable the way it is now.”
Harris told SX he was humbled by Gahan’s public words of endorsement which he said were a testament to the importance of grass roots and community activism.
“The Inner Sydney Greens, of which I am a straight member, has a full complement of members who make up LGBTI.
“I remember back in 2004 when some of our members were painting banners to attend early rallies supporting marriage equality – a campaign that was just getting off the ground,” he said.
“We have always entered a float in the Mardi Gras and I have marched in Mardi Gras almost every year that I have been a City of Sydney councillor.”
Meanwhile, the Greens candidate is said to be disappointed that Greenwich has decided not to direct preferences to any candidates which he said could give Mallard an advantage when it came to final counting of votes.
“Our campaign team has decided to direct my preferences to the two independent candidates, so that if I am not successful my votes will ensure that a progressive candidate is elected,” he said.
“The refusal by Alex Greenwich to issue preferences is very disappointing and now raises the prospect of a Liberal win in Sydney as the votes for the independent exhaust.”
It is believed the flow, or lack, of preferences was one of the key reasons why the Labor Party decided not to contest the by-election.
That decision has however caused some consternation within ALP circles after former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally decided to publicly back Greenwich as her preferred candidate in a move some suspect also had the blessing of Labor’s head office at Sussex Street.