Banks to support gay marriage bill

Move throws ACT into stark contrast with Colin Craig's Conservative Party. It could influence the makeup, and in turn economic policy, of the next government.

ACT leader John Banks has confirmed rumours he will vote for Labour MP Louisa Wall's Marriage Equality Bill - at least on its first reading.

The private member's bill, popularly known as the gay marriage bill, comes before the house tomorrow.

"I can confirm that Mr Banks will be supporting the bill to first reading," the ACT leader's press secretary told NBR.

"We have no further comment." He told media in parliament he was voting for the bill "Because I am."

A straw poll by the NZ Herald suggests the bill will easily pass its first reading. The bill is subject to a conscience vote.

Mr Banks move throws him into sharper opposition with Conservative Party leader Colin Craig - an alternative potential National Party coalition partner after the next election. Mr Craig strongly opposes gay marriage.

In 1986, Mr Banks voted against the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Today's announcement is the second right-on turn taken by the right wing politician recently. In July, he strongly backed another pet liberal cause - saving the whales.

With Mr Banks refusing to discuss his conscience vote, pundits will be left to fill in the blanks. Certainly, both his backing of gay marriage, and his support of whales, could sin him support in his electorate, which takes in the wealthy but relatively liberal Auckland suburbs of Epsom and Mt Eden.

One-time ACT MP aspirant and blogger Cathy Odgers, aka Cactus Kate, predicted on July 28 that Mr Banks would support the bill in a bid to leave a legacy. "The one thing that blights his copybook more so than being a large part of stuffing the ACT Party are his comments made 26 years ago on homosexuality," Ms Odgers says.

Last night she added on Facebook, "Left wingers all in a sticky lather today. John Banks voting for marriage equality bill and not all Labour MPs are. Their axis of political definitions has been smashed."

Epsom's reaction to Mr Banks' new-found support for gay marriage could colour the make-up of the next government, and in turn its economic policies.

Mr Banks has recently used the Greens' foreign land ownership bill to highlight ACT's free market principles.

Mr Craig, by contrast, has leaned in a more protectionist direction on economic issues.

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