A group of residents in the federal electorate of Bowman in southeast Queensland – currently held by Andrew Laming for the Liberal Party – is petitioning residents about their views on marriage equality.

They began in Mr Laming’s neighbourhood, the semi-rural Redlands suburb of Thornlands.

“Marriage equality always seemed fairly contentious in this region, which made starting in those streets a little challenging,” said Michael Burge, a Bowman resident of nearby Coochiemudlo Island.

“But there’s an old saying about wanting something badly enough meaning you have to get out there and ask for it, so that’s what we decided was the best course of action”.

“We are a group of locals called Redlands Residents – Your Voice on Marriage Equality – and we offered people a chance to sign either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ petition.

“The initial results have been very heartening. “The overwhelming majority of respondents signed ‘yes’ in support of changing the federal Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry; whereas a couple of people preferred to sign ‘no’ to show they’re happy with leaving things the way they are.”

In June 2015, Mr Laming was interviewed on an episode of Network Ten’s news program The Project.

When asked about including same-sex marriage in his annual survey on his constituents’ views on a variety of national and local issues, he was clear: “You can’t go anywhere in a community in Australia and ask this question about the definition of same-sex marriage without getting heated responses on both sides,” Mr Laming said.

“I’ve asked my electorate, every year, this question, and it comes back almost 50:50”. “It’s a highly divisive and complicated issue, so I want to see, once again, my electorate having a say; and I’ve said to them, if they vote this time, and they go one way or another, that’s how I would like to vote in parliament on their behalf. I will be openminded.”

Mr Burge said the early 2016 petition results do not reveal the kind of division Mr Laming spoke of in 2015.

“We were not met with a sense of this being a 50:50, red-hot topic, far from it. The most passionate responses were from many who voted ‘yes’ and were keen to underline how overdue marriage equality legislation is.

“I wondered how I would feel, as an out gay man living in this community with my husband, Richard, when someone asked to sign the ‘no’ option; but we feel it’s important this petition offers something to everyone with an opinion either way.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the minimal ‘no’ responses, and the polite, neutral way the ‘no’ petition was asked for.

“There was no sense of division in Thornlands on the days we petitioned in the area. On the contrary, there was a clear early trend: that marriage equality has the same majority support very close to home for Mr Laming as it does everywhere in the country whenever people are given a free and open say.”

Redlands Residents – Your Voice on Marriage Equality is a Facebook group that was set up in June 2015 as a response to the national attention garnered by Mr Laming’s survey. A well-attended marriage equality rally in Cleveland was also organised, supported by national lobby group Australian Marriage Equality.

The group will host a local workshop in early April for anyone wanting to assist in gathering signatures on the 2016 petition. Door-knocking and petitioning rules and tips, and light refreshments, will be shared on the day, and petitions forms handed out.

Find and ‘like’ ‘Redlands Residents – Your Voice on Marriage Equality’ on Facebook for all the details.

Anyone over the age of 18 and registered to vote in the federal seat of Bowman in postcodes 4157, 4158, 4159, 4160, 4161, 4163, 4164, 4165, 4183, 4184 is eligible to sign the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ petition, which will be distributed in person throughout the region across April before being presented to Andrew Laming.

Eventbrite for the petitioning workshop: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/redlands-residents-your-voice-on-marriage-equality-tickets-24279335145

Webpage: http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/do-redlanders-want-marriage-equality/

For further information contact Michael Burge on 0400 977 816 or Sharon Dane of Australian Marriage Equality 0403 895 268. Follow Redlands Residents – Your Voice on Marriage Equality on Facebook for unfolding news on this petition.

Author: Sharon Dane, Michael Burge
Publication: AME Media Release
Date: 30 March 2016