News National ‘Australia ready for change’: Senator

‘Australia ready for change’: Senator

A gay couple kissing at a festival
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David Leyonhjelm reckons the fact he is white, straight, conservative and middle-aged but still supports same-sex marriage shows Australia is ready for change.

The Liberal Democrat senator, who wants a conscience vote on the issue, is encouraging “closet libertarians in parliament to come out of the closet”.

His private bill, yet to be presented to parliament, will seek to remove references to “between a man and a woman” in the nation’s marriage laws.

Marriage celebrants will be free to marry who they choose so they don’t have to conduct ceremonies against their personal beliefs.

“Coming from the perspective of a relatively conservative, straight, middle-aged senator like me, whose vote is important to the government, I think the time is right,” Senator Leyonhjelm told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

He vowed not to be “fobbed off” on the issue, indicating he would use his leverage in the Senate to secure a conscience vote if required.

But he’s hoping he can win MPs and senators over by persuasion.

Senator Leyonhjelm said many parliamentarians broadly agreed with his party’s classical liberal principles, that governments should stay out of the private lives of people.

But it should not be painted as a moral issue, he said.

“You don’t have to approve, you just have to respect it’s not the government’s business,” Senator Leyonhjelm said.

“All we’re asking for is tolerance.”

Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said a free conscience vote for all members was an important step but it should be combined with an educational campaign.

“Making sure we can have a strong campaign to touch the hearts and minds of MPs and change their opinion is really important,” Senator Hanson-Young told reporters.

She had not read Senator Leyonhjelm’s proposed legislation, but said so long as the changes strengthened rather than weakened the institution of marriage she would be supportive.

“I don’t support scrapping marriage from the statute books,” she said.