THE local gay and lesbian community has blasted the federal government over its plans for a $160 million same-sex marriage plebiscite instead of “just getting on with it”.
Tamworth Area Gay and Lesbian Group co-owner Darren Ralph believes the country is ready to legalise same-sex marriage, but insists a plebiscite is not the answer.
“The money could be better spent on absolutely anything,” Mr Ralph told The Leader.
“It’s time for the Australian government to step up and take control.
“They’re there to make a decision. If two people love each other, what does it matter if they are the same sex?”
Mr Ralph questioned why there was no plebiscite to amend the 1961 Marriage Act in 2004 – which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others – yet the government is now considering spending $160 million on the national poll.
It comes as the Federal Cabinet last week signed off on plans to hold the same-sex marriage plebiscite on February 11 next year – but only if Labor supports the legislation in the Senate.
Mr Ralph, a 49-year-old who came out just 15 years ago, believed the country would vote in favour of same-sex marriage if the plebiscite goes ahead, but conceded there was “a fear of change” and an air of homophobia in regional areas like Tamworth.
“Personally I think Australia is ready for that change,” he said.
Mr Ralph said while the decision would not affect him, he wants same-sex couples wanting to wed be afforded the rights that have escaped them since day dot.
A Fairfax poll across New England and North West revealed that 68 per cent of respondents supported same-sex marriage.
Mr Ralph believed taking it to a plebiscite was a waste of money and instead called on the government to make a decision and “get on with it”.
“It’s a decision to be made by the government,” he said.
If two people love each other, what does it matter if they are the same sex?