Lismore gay couple hopeful but 'cynical' on marriage Bill
BELFAST-BORN Lismore resident Gerard Dunlop hopes that the private members Bill to legalise same-sex marriage is passed next week, but is cynical that his basic human rights are being used for political ends.
The Marriage Equality Bill, announced by Labor leader Bill Shorten on Tuesday, will come before the House of Representatives on Monday, not long after the people of Ireland voted in favour of same-sex marriage.
Mr Dunlop celebrated from afar when 62% of the Irish population flew in the face of the dictum of the once-dominant Catholic Church.
"When the people of Ireland voted it was beautiful. They voted on a set of principles that gay people shouldn't be considered less than others," he said.
"Of course I hope that the Bill gets passed because Australia can't have a referendum, but I'm cynical. I think the reason they (Labor) are doing this is to put Tony Abbott on the spot. The decision will be tainted."
Mr Shorten said the time had come for parliament to debate marriage equality, adding he found it unacceptable that current laws excluded some individuals.
"It will challenge the deeply held personal beliefs of MPs and senators on both sides of politics," he said.
"This is why Labor members have the freedom to vote their conscience, a freedom Tony Abbott is currently denying his party."
Opinion polls suggest public support for marriage equality is even higher in Australia than in Ireland, at more than 70%, according to a Crosby Textor poll.
However, unlike Ireland, the Marriage Act must be changed through Parliament not through a referendum.
But Mr Dunlop and his partner, published author Eben Venter, will not be rushing down the aisle should Monday's Bill be passed.
"Look, I am an advocate for people with a disability and we encourage people with a disability to make informed decisions - even if that means that some people make very poor decisions. It's their right," Mr Dunlop said.
"So, too, gay people have a right to make their own poor decisions which means that they can get married. There is no way I'd get married."
South African-born Mr Venter agreed with his partner.
"I don't want to take part in an institution that has proven not to mean much more than the certificate it's written on," he said.
"Straight people have made a total mess of the institution of marriage.
"But it comes down to equal rights and we are blessed to live in a country where we can live a good life as a gay couple."