The Hunter’s gay pride festival could turn political this year after the Liberal party rejected a move by a group of MPs to allow a free vote on gay marriage.
The party voted on Monday to push again for a same-sex marriage plebiscite and, if that fails, move to a non-legislated, non-binding voluntary postal ballot.
The decision left Pokolbin Pride organiser Jimmy Kerr shocked and disappointed. He took to Facebook to gauge interest in a march as part of this year’s festival to “protest the Prime Minister and Cabinet's failure to listen to the country”.
Mr Kerr said the government’s plan was a “waste of time and money” and wants the government to take the matter to a free vote in parliament.
The proposed march from Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen to Tamburlaine Wines would take place on October 21 – the same night as Midnight Oil’s concert at Hope Estate.
Mr Kerr said the aim was to create greater visibility to the cause in one of Australia’s leading wedding destination areas.
He said feedback from last year’s festival attendees was a desire for the event to make more of a political statement.
Monday’s Liberal party decision pushed Mr Kerr in that direction.
“We obviously expected yesterday to be a bit different,” Mr Kerr told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.
“We really thought that given the support marriage equality has now from both sides of government and the public, Malcolm Turnbull would use his authority as Prime Minister to really stick to his word.
When Mr Kerr says stick to his word, he refers to a lecture Mr Turnbull delivered at Southern Cross University in 2012.
Mr Turnbull said in a speech: “If we had a free vote on the matter and, subject always to the wording of the bill, I would vote to recognise same-sex couples' unions as a marriage.”
“I don’t understand a man of his position bowing down to a very old guard in his party,” Mr Kerr said.
Mr Kerr and his partner Matty held a ceremony in December to celebrate their love, but the marriage was not legally binding.
He said marriage equality affected more than just gay people. He said the lack of action was upsetting for families and could potentially create a whole generation of young people who think it’s not okay to be gay.
Pokolbin Pride runs from October 20-22.