Karen Barlow: Same-Sex Marriage Is Not A Left/Right Issue

CANBERRA -- Allowing individuals to live the life they want without harming others? Promoting and supporting the institution of marriage?

Just who or what has that argument for same-sex marriage?

If you think same-sex marriage is all about lefties verses the toffs. Or campaigning for the, in play, marriage equality postal survey is just greenies verses the conservatives, think again. And here's why.

In a sign of just how accepted marriage equality is within the Australian community, a contingent of Liberals and Nationals, including party elders, current parliamentarians and young Libs and Nats up and comers, have formed to campaign on the "yes" case for the more conservative side of Australian politics.

It is a broad cross-section of the Coalition parties, formed as a group called 'Libs and Nats for Yes', which is launching nationally on Monday. And it adds to the known group of Liberals; Dean Smith, Tim Wilson, Warren Entsch, Trevor Evans, Trent Zimmerman and Jason Wood, who are trying to get a free vote on parliament on same-sex marriage. One Liberal Party elder, former Howard Government minister Amanda Vanstone told HuffPost Australia that marriage equality is a conservative, or more correctly in her view, a liberal issue, in its support for the institution of marriage.

But also for her, particularly, marriage equality is about fairness. And she insists she is far from alone in the Liberal Party.

"From the people that I speak to, just reasonably wide ranging, I am not silly enough to stay within my own little group, there is very strong support," Vanstone said.

"Most Liberals that I know are in fact very much strongly in favour. Not just OK, but strongly in favour."

The push of the group, which is also supported by federal Liberal Party President and former NSW Premier Nick Greiner as patron, is "Vote YES, no room for complacency" or "Take nothing for granted".

Other prominent Liberals and Nats include Government leader in the House Christopher Pyne, Education Minister Simon Birmingham and Nationals Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester, who recently spoke to HuffPost Australia about his great concern for young gay and lesbian people in rural and regional areas of Australia.

Amanda Vanstone, who is now a Fairfax columnist, said there was a very strong case for same sex marriage within the Liberal Party and it is important party elders speak out.

"I think it is very important for Liberals to recognise whether they are party members or Liberal voters that the vast majority of voters are the sort of people who want to say yes," she said.

"And that those who describe themselves as representing the party base misunderstand what the party base is."

Pressed on that, Vanstone said, "Liberals recognise that the majority of them want a yes vote."

"I am hoping that this campaign alerts some of the more conservative people to the fact that the majority of Liberals want to vote yes."

The last Newspoll carried an extra question on voting intentions in the postal survey with a political support breakdown.

Fifty-five percent of Coalition voters supported the change, while 75 per cent of Labor voters and 82 percent of Greens voters backed it. Even 50 percent of One Nation voters want marriage equality.

Vanstone told HuffPost Australia the broad community support for same-sex marriage should not be surprising and there is a very strong case within the traditions of the Liberal Party.

"Liberals, and if I can speak briefly for Nationals, I think are very much in favour of strong, stable communities and they are basically based on family relationships," she said.

"In the past we have recognised heterosexual ones, but having more people marry will make marriage stronger and more people committing to being dependent on each other, that means more people helping each other out, looking after each other, is going to make society stronger."

"So I think a 'yes' vote for same-sex marriage both makes marriage stronger and society stronger. That is a good thing for all Liberals I would have thought."

'Libs and Nats for Yes' states: "Successful institutions evolve over time. Marriage is no exception to this rule. The Marriage Act has been amended 20 times since 1961.

"We should make 2017 the year when the 21st amendment to the Marriage Act delivers same sex marriage in Australia. Civil marriage under Australian law will not undermine religious freedoms which must continue to be protected under the Constitution and law."

Vanstone also reminds Liberal voters that the party stands for the individual living their life as they choose, unless that are harming others.

"You can't make the case, in this day and age, that homosexual marriage is going to harm others. It is not."

But, in particular, for Vanstone, marriage equality, is all about fairness.

"It is just fair and decent to allow people to have their relationships formally recognised," she told HuffPost Australia.

"That strikes me as a perfectly decent thing to do and I can't for the life of me understand why we don't.

"I don't care if other people are opposed to homosexuality and they don't want to have homosexual marriage. They don't have to. It is not their problem.

"To me it is not the issue whether you want it. The issue is whether you are prepared to allow other people to live the life they want and I think that is a very reasonable thing to do."

With the electoral roll now closed for the marriage equality postal survey, the ballots are now due to be sent out on September 12.