A conservative Catholic leader may have unwittingly helped the fight for marriage equality in Australia.
Peter Westmore is head of the National Civic Council (NCC), a conservative religious group that for decades has sought to shape Australian public opinion and policy on key social and political issues, including same-sex marriage.
And his daughter is gay.
Mr Westmore confirmed that in November he attended his daughter Trish’s marriage to partner Christy Hackney in New Zealand, where same-sex marriage was made legal in 2013.
A core NCC policy is that it “rejects lifestyles which undermine family values”.
In 2012, Mr Westmore told an audience at the National Marriage Day rally outside Federal Parliament in Canberra: “We are here to celebrate marriage, the union between a man and a woman, because it provides the foundation on which every successful society, from time immemorial, has been based.”
In 2013 he questioned same-sex marriage legalisation in New Zealand, and in 2014 opposed a Greens’ bill for Australian recognition of foreign same-sex marriages.
Mr Westmore did not respond when questioned about the apparent hypocrisy in his personal and political positions on the issue, asking Fairfax Media to “respect” his family’s privacy, saying his daughter “has my blessing in everything she does”.
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said it was a reminder that marriage equality can affect Australian families, no matter their religion, politics or ideology.
“Some people will call Mr Westmore hypocritical for opposing marriage equality, but my hope is that, like many other people of faith, he’s on a journey towards supporting it,” Mr Croome said.
“The more the families of conservative Catholics like Mr Westmore are affected by Australia’s discriminatory marriage laws, the more pressure there will be on Tony Abbott to allow a free vote on the issue.”