Lyne MP David Gillespie on why he abstained in same-sex marriage vote

Dr David Gillespie abstained from the final same-sex marriage vote.
Dr David Gillespie abstained from the final same-sex marriage vote.

Lyne MP Dr David Gillespie has spoken to Fairfax Media about abstaining from the final vote on the same-sex marriage legislation.

He had previously said he would respect the majority view within his electorate on the marriage survey, despite having what he calls a traditional view of marriage.

In the Lyne electorate, 81.3 per cent of eligible voters responded to the Australian Marriage Law postal survey and 55.3 per cent voted yes to allow same-sex marriage.

Assistant Health Minister, Dr Gillespie said that he was present for the first and second readings of the bill. 

“During the second reading, Tony Abbott moved a pious amendment that was knocked back. Member spoke to the bill. I summarised the Lyne electorate results. 

“I was concerned about essential freedoms, for example, to maintain parental rights, and to protect religious bodies so they wouldn’t be taken to court if they didn’t partake in same-sex marriage ceremonies,” Dr Gillespie said.

“I welcomed the result but said it was in conflict with what I had argued for, and that I would fight to protect religious freedom, maintain parental rights and so on.

“A lot of people are very worried about the knock-on effects of the change. They don’t want to have to do things contrary to their religious beliefs.

“The amendments were all put up and voted down, and I was there for all that.  After that, it was passed, with me in the chamber. 

“There’s a final, symbolic, procedural thing where there is a third reading.  On the final, symbolic reading of the bill, I absented myself from the chamber, because I didn’t want to conflict on the substantive motion.

“I cannot go over to the other side and vote ‘no’, because my electorate doesn’t want me to say no.  It was voted on the voices. The speaker said ‘All those in favour, say ‘aye’, and no-one said ‘no’.

“I believe in the traditional definition of marriage. I also have to follow my own conscience. On the substantive motion, I believed in one thing. I could have gone over to the other side and voted ‘no’ and called out ‘no’ and forced everyone to divide and count, but I didn’t,” he said.

He said was very happy for all the people who wanted the same-sex legislation to go through. I just have misgivings. I will watch this space.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on December 8 that when it came to the final vote on same-sex marriage, it was standing room only on the "yes" side of the House of Representatives, while a lonely group of just four "no" voters perched on the other side. SMH said the House of Representatives does not officially record MPs who abstain, but is estimated about 14 MPs did not vote on the same-sex marriage bill.

As well as Dr Gillespie, this included some of Parliament's most high profile ‘no’ advocates, including treasurer Scott Morrison, former prime minister Tony Abbott and former defence minister Kevin Andrews. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was also among the group, along with renegade Liberal Nationals MP George Christensen, and conservative West Australian Liberal Andrew Hastie.

While abstaining could be interpreted as fence-sitting on a controversial issue, many MPs have explained they chose to forgo their votes to try and accommodate both their personal views on same-sex marriage and the clear majority ‘yes’ vote in the postal survey.

Others have added that had the bill been amended to include more protections for freedom of speech and religion, they may have voted differently.