CANBERRA -- New Liberal MP Tim Wilson has defended the proposed marriage equality plebiscite from criticisms that it would marginalise the LGBTI community, saying "we are not victims".
Wilson, elected as Member for Goldstein at the July election, has spoken openly about being a gay man in the Liberal Party (including in his maiden speech last month). As part of the debate on the plebiscite bill, Wilson took the floor in the House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon to defend his party's proposal, saying it would be the fastest and most direct route to legalising same sex marriage.
"We have waited long enough. The only reason Labor don't want a plebiscite is because they want to change the law one day, in the future, when they are in government," Wilson claimed.
"Deep down, Labor don't want change under a Liberal Government because they know it's a thoroughly liberal reform."
Wilson said it would be a "great day for our country" when marriage equality is legalised, and would make Australia "a more perfect Commonwealth". He took aim at Labor leader Bill Shorten for his repeated claims that a plebiscite, and the accompanying public campaign around the change to the Marriage Act, would lead to negative outcomes for the LGBTI community.
"Let me make this crystal clear. We are not victims, and I take exception to [Shorten] implying we are," Wilson railed.
Many marriage equality advocates have stated that they would rather wait for a free vote than have a plebiscite, even though that may take years to occur as the Liberal-National coalition seems locked into opposing a free vote. Members of Rainbow Families, a group of LGBTI parents and children who opposed the plebiscite, told The Huffington Post Australia "if we must wait another term, we will."
Wilson took aim at the opposition.
"Worse, the opposition leader and his shadow attorney-general have validated the idea that those who seek change should just sit back and wait. It is not the right of others who have never had to wait to decide for those who have," he said.
Wilson said he had been asked by a constituent recently what a younger Tim Wilson would have thought of the plebiscite debate.
"A younger me wouldn't have imagined... he would have turned recently to the Member for North Sydney and ask 'did you ever imagine you'd see the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader fight over who is more in favour of marriage for same sex couples on the floor of the House of Representatives?'," Wilson replied, referencing Trent Zimmerman, who is also gay.
Wilson said the plan for a plebiscite made him "emotional" initially but he supported the idea as the right path to marriage equality
"[The plebiscite announcement] took me back to that place when I was coming to terms with my sexuality and the silence and isolation that made me doubt my legitimate place in this world," he said.
"The worst bullying never came from others. It came from within. The opposition leader clearly doesn't understand that experience. Young LGBTI Australians have no-one to turn to for support. The people they fear talking to most are those they traditionally turn to for support -- parents, siblings and friends -- because they are the people you fear rejection from. It is this silence that feeds anxiety and doubt -- left alone, isolated, and often trapped and locked in a dungeon of negative thoughts that swirl in your own mind. Alone and with no-one to talk to or relate to."
"That's what the opposition has got it wrong. A plebiscite is not a call to silence. It is an opportunity, a call for all of us to stand up for the type of country we want to be."