An anti-gay Australian Senator has suggested he would probably just ignore a proposed public vote on same-sex marriage.
Despite an overwhelming majority of the Australian public supporting equal marriage, the current Liberal-led coalition government refuses to put it to a free Parliamentary vote due to deep political divisions on the issue.
Instead, the government plans to hold a plebiscite (public vote) after the election in 2017, which likely means marriages won’t begin until 2018 at the earliest.
However, even if that plan goes ahead and the public vote in favour of equality, some government MPs have said they will still do their best to stop the legislation.
Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, who served as Minister for Employment until September, suggested the vote wouldn’t be “binding” on Parliament.
He told the Guardian: “I would need to determine whether [the plebiscite] really is an accurate reflection [of the national view], whether it is all above board or whether the question is stacked, whether all sides received public funding.
“Everyone knows my view is very strongly that a marriage between a man and a woman is the foundational institution for socialising the next generation.
“Every member of parliament will make up his or her mind after the plebiscite is held. People will take into account the views of the electorate, the views of the nation and their own personal views.”
He added: “There will be people in the parliament who could not support the outcome of a plebiscite whichever way it went.”
Veteran gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome of Australian Marriage Equality said the comments “show clearly that there is no point in having a plebiscite and spending $160m when politicians are going to make up their own minds anyway”.
He added: “With or without a plebiscite, this issue will be resolved by a free vote of all members of the parliament, so let’s just get on and have that vote.
“People are attracted to the idea of a plebiscite because at first glance it seems like a circuit breaker, but what Eric Abetz is saying shows it won’t be conclusive at all, and he’s right about that.”
Abetz is known for his militant opposition to equal marriage, alongside his brother Peter Abetz – a member of the Western Australian Parliament.
Peter Abetz has made even more extreme comments, comparing same-sex parenting to stealing children from Aborigines.
He also claims gays don’t need to marry because they all sleep around and have open relationships.
Eric Abetz has not publicly condemned his brother’s comments… but then again, he’s probably not the worst relation to have.
The pair’s great-uncle Otto Abetz was a notorious Nazi war criminal who was convicted of arranging the deportation of French Jews to death camps.