NEWCASTLE MP Sharon Grierson was the first to sign the same-sex marriage charter that could make history for gay and lesbian couples in Australia.
Ms Grierson said she endorsed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s motion to allow state and federal MPs a conscience vote on same-sex marriage.
The motion was voted in 208-185 at the Australian Labor Party’s national conference in Canberra on Saturday.
Opinions were divided in the Hunter. Paterson MP Bob Baldwin and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon said they would vote against same-sex marriage.
Mr Baldwin said his Christian faith would prevent him from supporting gay and lesbian marriage and MrFitzgibbon said his electorate would find the move ‘‘offensive’’.
‘‘I strongly supported the bills removing all sorts of discrimination against same-sex couples, however, I plan to continue to vote against any change,’’ Mr Fitzgibbon said. ‘‘I’m concerned that many heterosexual couples in my electorate will find the change quite offensive.
‘‘I believe the party is ahead of community opinion and I’ve given this a lot of thought and consideration in recent months.’’
Ms Grierson said about 66per cent of her electorate was in favour of gay and lesbian marriage. She said the opposition Whip, Warren Entsch, had been a strong supporter of gay marriage and if Opposition Leader Tony Abbott gave the Coalition a conscience vote, she believed the bill would have a good chance of succeeding.
‘‘I would have preferred it to have gone to Parliament with support as part of the ALP platform but I still think it can get there,’’ Ms Grierson said.
Mr Baldwin said he helped get the same-sex marriage bill into parliament and was not homophobic but: ‘‘Given my own very strong personal views, based on my upbringing, I won’t be supporting the gay marriage bill.’’