Australian MP comes out as gay, makes case for equal marriage

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A senior Australian politician has come out as gay in a moving speech to MPs.

New South Wales Liberal Party MP Don Harwin, who is also president of the state’s upper house, made the revelation during his Christmas message marking the end of the 2014 legislative session.

“Life is so different for them than it was for me,” he said.

“Much has been achieved since then, and perhaps my travails in less happy times gave me the determination I needed to pursue this role.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reports after his speech, Mr Harwin said he had been open about his sexual orientation to parents, friends, and work colleagues for almost 20 years.

He told MPs that he had entered public debate on only one issue during the term, same-sex marriage, by making a submission to a senate inquiry on the matter.

Mr Harwin wrote in his submission that excluding gay couples from the institution of marriage was discrimination that must end.

In his address to parliament on Thursday, Mr Harwin said he believed he was the first Liberal parliamentarian at a state or federal level to publicly support marriage equality in Australia, when he spoke on the Relationships Register Bill in 2010.

“It is remarkable how quickly public opinion has shifted and, indeed, our house has voted to support marriage equality in principle,” Mr Harwin said.

“I hope that my many friends who are waiting for the opportunity to marry will not have to wait too much longer for the Commonwealth Parliament to reform the law.”

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome praised Mr Harwin for coming out.

“We applaud Mr Harwin as a role model for gay Australians who seek to become community leaders, and as a key voice in the campaign to achieve marriage equality,” Mr Croome said. “But it is shameful that someone who has made such an important contribution to public life is still not treated equally by the law.”

Last year, a bill to legalise same-sex marriage in New South Wales failed in a narrow vote of 19 to 21.

Federal attempts to pass the reform also failed in 2012.

Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Tony Abbot remains opposed to equal marriage.

NSW became the third Australian state to recognise same-sex marriages conducted overseas last month.