A former Tasmanian Liberal Minister has backed the campaign for marriage equality saying the public is “disenchanted with government procrastination” on the issue, calling for a Liberal free vote and labelling a plebiscite “ridiculous”.

John Barker, who was Liberal Public Service Minister under Premier Ray Groom, has written a column on the issue in which he acknowledges Tasmania’s “positive record on gay rights” and calls on current premier, Will Hodgman, to “bend the arm of the Prime Minister” on same-sex marriage.

The column comes ahead of a marriage equality rally at 12.30pm today in the City Hall that will be addressed by Tasmanian celebrities, Matt Newell and Monique Brumby, and by Hobart Lord Mayor, Sue Hickey.

Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, welcomed Mr Barker’s support for marriage equality.

“John Barker’s support for marriage equality is a reminder that the reform is no longer a left/right issue but one all Australians can get behind.”

“It is also a reminder that there’s only one sensible path forward on marriage equality and that’s a Liberal free vote on the cross-party legislation to be introduced next week.”

“I expect his column to have a positive impact on those Liberals who remain undecided on the issue by sending the issue .”

In his column Mr Barker says the federal government will lose electoral support if it continues to block marriage equality by not allowing a free vote and notes that conservative governments in the UK and New Zealand were re-elected with larger majorities after they passed marriage equality.

He also warns any move to a plebiscite will be “politically damaging” for the Abbott Government.

He ends by declaring “the Australian people require leadership not inaction”.

Mr Barker is currently a strategic partner with communications company, Font. In 1996, in his role as Public Service Minister, he was the first Tasmanian Liberal to publicly propose the legal recognition of same-sex couples.

It is understood Mr Barker will send a copy of his column to all federal MPs.

The original article can be viewed here: www.fontpr.com.au/blog/conscience-vote-call-action/
Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome