Rodney Croome: Moving too soon will cause delays
Moving too soon on gay marriage by rushing legislation through parliament is more than likely to have the opposite effect of proloning the debate, writes Rodney Croome.
Marriage equality is an issue that many Australians want resolved sooner rather than later.
But if legislation is rushed through parliament it is likely to have the opposite effect of prolonging the debate.
The problem is the Coalition’s opposition to a conscience vote.
Now that Labor allows its MPs to vote how they want on marriage equality, the Coalition has to do the same or reform doesn't stand a chance.
This means to get reform as quickly as possible we have to allow supporters of a conscience vote within the Coalition the time they need to soften their Party's rigid stance.
The obvious criticism is that it's been seven years since the Coalition initiated the ban on same-sex marriages - how much more time does it need?
But it wasn't until December's Labor National Conference that the Coalition was confronted with another major party endorsing marriage equality.
Suddenly, marriage equality is not just an issue for individual Coalition MPs to consider, it's a serious political challenge the Coalition can’t avoid.
Labor took two years to work marriage equality through its processes – from state branches and unions to the national conference.
The least we can do is allow the Coalition a couple of months.
In the meantime groups like Australian Marriage Equality will be lobbying hard, and encouraging individual supporters of equality to do the same.
This will include establishing action groups in key electorates, particularly those held by Liberals whose support for reform is essential.
It will also include encouraging high profile public figures and organisations to state their support for equality.
Most of all it will involve encouraging more people to tell MPs how reform affects them personally.
Telling personal stories will be as indispensable to changing the Coalition’s position as it was to changing Labor’s.
There’s no guarantee we can convince the Coalition to change its mind, or even secure the support of a majority of MPs if it does.
But what is guaranteed is that if marriage equality is debated too soon it will be roundly defeated.