FOR the Thomas family of Abbotsbury, Chris Bowen is not just a familiar face.
In fact, they share a bit of history.
Back in the days, Geoff Thomas' two children, Nathan Thomas and Melanie Thomas-O'Keeffe, grew up with the Minister for Immigration and McMahon MP as they went to school with him at Smithfield Public School and St Johns Park High School.
Over the last few years, the Thomas trio also frequently met with Mr Bowen as part of their fight for marriage equality.
From these confidential consultations, they say they were led to believe Mr Bowen was on their side.
"Mr Bowen expressed his support for same-sex marriage on the basis that if one of his children were gay he would want them to have equal treatment under the law," Nathan said.
Nathan, 37, came out in 2004 and the news that Mr Bowen will vote against same-sex marriage came as a rude shock.
"Mr Bowen is on the wrong side of history," he said. "Fairfield is a multiculturally diverse and accepting community. Why is this not being extended to gays and lesbians?"
For Geoff Thomas, 63, who was in the Champion in May, Mr Bowen's decision was "genuinely disgusting and disappointing". "I've known Chris for a long time and his decision acknowledges that my son is a second-class citizen in my own country," he said.
Bossley Park resident Justin Carroll, 25, says he feels neglected by his own MP. "I see my friends get married and share their celebration so why can't they share mine?" he asked. "My friends overseas can do it, why can't I? Chris Bowen is my representative but he's shunning me."
Local civil-marriage celebrant Lara Nettle said marriage was a basic human right. "As a marriage celebrant I'm frequently put in the unenviable position of having to tell couples that legal requirements of the Marriage Act mean the ceremony that unites them in love also insults and dehumanises their family, friends and loved ones," she said. "Love and respect is a basic human right and by denying gays and lesbians the right to marry, that's treating them as less human and less deserving of our regard and concern."
Nathan said there was no better time than the present for change.
"Now's the time," he said. "It's time for pro marriage-equality supporters to stand up and be heard and remind Chris Bowen they're voters in his electorate, too."
There will be a meeting on Thursday, August 2, at 7pm for McMahon residents who support same-sex marriage.
For more information: equalitynathan@iinet .net.au.
¦ Same-sex marriage is legal in: Netherlands (2001); Belgium (2003); Canada (2005); Spain (2005); South Africa (2006); Norway (2009); Sweden (2009); Portugal (2010); Iceland (2010); Argentina (2010); and Denmark (2012).