The Hamilton Spectator – August 15, 2015
FORMER Casterton man Lachlan Beaton, who has become a prominent figure in the debate over same-sex marriage, has called for people on both sides of the issue to abandon “hate”.
“As the weeks drew closer to (Tuesday’s Coalition party room vote), the debates become quite vitriolic on both sides,” Mr Beaton said.
“I went to a marriage equality rally (in Sydney) on Sunday and there was a lot of hate towards the other side, and I suspect the same is happening on the ‘anti’ side.
“I hope that over the next 12 months the debate doesn’t bring out the deepest darkest issues.”
Mr Beaton urged other same-sex marriage supporters to concentrate on the “important issues”, such as the impact of inequality on rural youth, rather than denigrating opponents.
He has been featured in news reports worldwide after he uploaded an emotional YouTube video that discussed his 12-year struggle to come to terms with his homosexuality.
Mr Beaton realised he was gay at about age 15 but hid the fact from everyone in his life, including his identical twin brother.
Queensland LNP MP Warren Entsch saw Mr Beaton’s video and used it to support his campaign for a bi-partisan private member’s bill to legalise same-sex marriage.
Despite the campaign, federal Liberal and National MPs and Senators voted two-to-one to block a ‘free’ vote on same-sex marriage during a six-hour party room meeting on Tuesday.
Backbench Coalition MPs can still cross the floor of Parliament and vote for same-sex marriage and not be punished, but any cabinet members that do so will be sacked from their ministerial positions.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s party room strategy has made it almost certain that any bill to legalise same-sex marriage will be defeated if put to Parliament before the next election.
Mr Beaton returned to Australia this week from his home in New York City in order to lobby MPs in Canberra and give a talk to students at his former school, Monivae College.
The Spectator asked Mr Beaton if the private member’s bill vote should still go ahead even if it created a damaging spectacle in Parliament.
“I think, from a political point of view at a sensible level, you should look at taking it off the table until there is a path through,” Mr Beaton said
“Having met with (Mr Entsch) on Monday, he’s really not worried about the politics of it and he’s said that to me directly.
“If there’s a prospect of MPs crossing the floor he would probably welcome it; he’s got a really strong conscience on this and he’s not going to let it go away.”
Mr Beaton met with Wannon MP Dan Tehan in Canberra on Monday, where there was agreement that youth mental health was a pressing issue.
However, Mr Tehan remained committed to his belief in the traditional definition of marriage and repeated his public pledge to support a free vote on same-sex marriage.
The next day Mr Tehan backflipped during the party room meeting and now supports the same-sex marriage decision being made by the people and not the Parliament.
The Coalition cabinet appears split on the issue of how to proceed now that Mr Abbott has made an open-ended pledge to have the issue decided “by the people”.
Some senior Liberals want a ‘plebiscite’ on same-sex marriage, which would require a simple vote by every eligible Australian to settle the matter outright.
Social conservatives want to hold a full referendum, which would require a majority of people in at least four of Australia’s six states to support same-sex marriage, a much higher hurdle to clear.
— Lachlan Beaton (@lachlanbeaton01) August 14, 2015