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Marriage equality on the agenda -

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Now that Labor has officially endorsed gay marriage, the question is how it will unfold in the
Parliament and what community sentiment will be.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Back to the ramifications of the Labor conference.

Now that Labor has officially endorsed gay marriage the question is how it will unfold in the
Parliament and what community sentiment will be.

Labor has agreed on a conscience vote but it's widely expected that a change to the Marriage Act
won't survive the Parliament.

The broader question is how the issue will play at the ballot box as Natasha Johnson reports.

NATASHA JOHNSON, REPORTER: Sydney couple Sandy Miller and Louise Bucke have become a public face of
the campaign for marriage equality, speaking out and lobbying MPs ahead of the ALP national

SANDY MILLER: For us the next step is to get married, to make that commitment in front of the
people we love, our family, our friends, and be recognised legally and everywhere else that this is
my wife.

PROTESTERS: Gay, straight, black or white, marriage is a civil right! Gay, straight...

NATASHA JOHNSON: A very personal issue for them has become political, triggering passionate debate
on the national stage and bringing protesters onto the streets.

But just how big an issue is it in the community?

ALEX GREENWICH, AUSTRALIAN MARRIAGE EQUALITY: I think this is a reform whose time has come and I
think that the Australian public would like the Government to get over it and get on with it.

JIM WALLACE, AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIAN LOBBY: There are enough people out there certainly in faith
communities who fundamentally disagree with this and disagree strongly that this will definitely
hurt Labor in a close election.

NATASHA JOHNSON: Jim Wallace represents the Australian Christian Lobby. His organisation has
collected 120,000 signatures on an anti-gay marriage petition, many he says coming from marginal
ALP seats. And he predicts an electoral backlash against Labor, particularly amongst the 20 per
cent of people he says are churchgoers.

JIM WALLACE: I have never seen the churches actually put together 100,000, over 100,000 signatures
on a issue. I can tell you that 20 per cent of the population, I would believe, are absolutely
annoyed at this decision.

NATASHA JOHNSON: But Monash University political lecturer Zareh Ghazarian questions whether
opposition from church leaders and Christian groups will necessarily change votes.

ZAREH GHAZARIAN, POLITICAL LECTURER, MONASH UNIVERSITY: Well they are very influential especially
for their congregations, they will be very influential. But will they have the power to dictate
what people do in the privacy of their ballot box? Possibly, possibly not.

There are a whole raft of other issues that will presumably be going through people's minds when
they turn up to vote in a few years' time.

They will be concerned about healthcare, education, immigration, all those sorts of things. This is
just yet another issue rather than the issue that people will vote for.

NATASHA JOHNSON: But Federal Labor MP John Murphy is deeply worried.

JOHN MURPHY, FEDERAL LABOR MP: I'm shattered because the people who have pushed this agenda are
seeking to redefine marriage. And marriage has been around as a union of a man and a woman for
thousands of years.

NATASHA JOHNSON: A member of the party's right wing the Catholic MP represents the inner Western
Sydney electorate of Reid which has the largest Muslim population in the country, many of whom he
believes will punish Labor.

JOHN MURPHY: Well I think we could lose at least eight seats in New South Wales and another 12
seats in the other states. And that's serious for the ALP.

Whilst we will lose very few votes I believe from the gay community, from the conservative
community who support the Labor Party they will leave us in droves.

NATASHA JOHNSON: But Alex Greenwich from the pro-reform group Australian Marriage Equality argues
such dire predictions are unfounded.

He says Galaxy polling it commissioned showed 62 per cent of Australians support same-sex marriage
and that voter intention polling suggests it could deliver a 7 per cent swing to Labor.

ALEX GREENWICH: I think that Labor Party will get a boost from this because I think people have
seen that the Labor Party is returning to their core values of fairness and equality. And I think
they'll get a lot of new voters, particularly from the Greens and young voters.

NATASHA JOHNSON: He says a Galaxy poll released today also shows that three-quarters of Coalition
voters support their MPs also having a conscience vote on the issue, although it's yet to be
supported by Tony Abbott.

BRUCE NOTLEY-SMITH, NSW LIBERAL MP: The Liberal Party is a broad church as we know and has a
diversity of views within it. And I believe that there will be a great deal of debate.

NATASHA JOHNSON: The openly gay New South Wales State Member for Coogee Bruce Notley-Smith whose
electorate overlaps much of Malcolm Turnbull's says progressive Liberals like him will come under
pressure to cross the floor without a conscience vote.

BRUCE NOTLEY-SMITH: I would think that the most sensible way to go about it is to allow people a
conscience vote. And remember conscience votes really are a reflection of the community and the

JIM WALLACE: We'll certainly be trying to prevail on the Coalition that it should not go to a
conscience vote.

It's made a promise for the term of this Parliament. And like the Labor Party we expect it to keep

ZAREH GHAZARIAN: This issue really will be bubbling along. And ultimately the writing is on the
wall. We can see that this is going to be the future of Australian policy. This will - there will
be a change. Whether it's now or whether in the future remains unclear.

NATASHA JOHNSON: And that's a view shared by Sandy Miller and Louise Bucke.

SANDY MILLER: You know it used to be that you never heard about anyone having a gay relative - a
son, a daughter, a cousin, a brother, an uncle. It used to be in the closet. It used to be hidden.

But now there aren't many families that are not affected by it, who don't know someone who's in a
same-sex relationship. It's not a dirty word.

NATASHA JOHNSON: And a private member's bill on gay marriage put forward by Labor MP Stephen Jones
is expected to go before the Federal Parliament in the first half of next year.

Natasha Johnson reporting.