Abbott stays silent as marriage talk hits Sydney’s east and north
A few days after having dinner interrupted by gay rights activists, Coalition Leader Tony Abbott refused to answer a question on marriage equality at a public forum overnight, as the East Sydney branch of the Liberal Party became the first branch within the party to pass a motion in favour of a conscience vote on the issue.
Marriage equality advocate and Cremorne resident, Nathan Thomas, was amongst an audience of about 400 people at Balgowlah RSL last night gathered for a community question and answer session with the Opposition Leader.
“I firstly stood up and informed everyone that I was a gay man and that I was proud to be so,” Thomas told SX today.
“I was quite nervous as usually I like to stay behind the scenes but when I said that I actually got a few claps and cheers.
“In the area where I live in Sydney’s North Shore, all the seats are held by Liberal MPs – all of whom are pretty much staunchly against marriage equality which is very sad.”
Thomas, 36, then questioned Abbott on how he would react if marriage equality was introduced, considering all major polls show widespread community support and most people believe the reform will happen eventually.
“Abbott didn’t even answer the question,” Thomas said.
“He fell back on his tired old lines of how he went into last election with a position and he was going to remain consistent with the electorate unlike Prime Minister Julia Gillard.”
Despite Abbott’s silence on the issue, Thomas said he was struck by the antagonism towards marriage equality by some within the crowd as well as the support he received from others on the night.
“A few people said to me that they don’t care if gay people were married as long as they didn’t call it marriage. Some even suggested we use the word ‘marriage’ backwards. Those people grew up with prejudice at a time when homosexuality was illegal along with misinformed ideas about sin due to church teachings,” Thomas said.
“After the meeting, at least ten or fifteen people waited and came up to see me to thank me for asking the question and that they were all behind marriage equality. That was quite touching.”
Abbott’s refusal to answer Thomas’s question came as the East Sydney branch of the Liberal Party passed a motion, believed to be the first of its kind in Australia by a conservative political party, calling for a conscience vote for all Coalition MPs on the issue of marriage equality.
Australian Marriage Equality convener Alex Greenwich said that the East Sydney branch was simply standing up for fundamental Liberal Party principles such as individual freedom.
“It also sends a clear message to Tony Abbott that this issue will to continue grow until he allows Coalition members the same freedom as Labor MPs currently have to vote according according to their conscience,” Greenwich said.
“Failure to grant such a vote will result in dissatisfaction from Coalition branches, members and voters, many of whom want their party to play a part in bringing about this historic reform.”
Thomas (pictured, right, with father Geoff) meanwhile called on everyone in the LGBT community and their supporters, particularly the parents of gay children, to make sure that their voices were heard by their political representatives.
“My father has written a submission into the House of Representatives marriage inquiry and it’s really moving and I wish all the parents of gay kids – or even half the amount – would do the same as then we’d have really big numbers,” he said.
The House of Representatives inquiry closes for public submissions on April 20. To fill in the official survey, visit