Aus­tralian PM Ab­bott stymies push for gay mar­riage, for now

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott said Wed­nes­day his gov­ern­ment would re­main op­posed to gay mar­riage dur­ing the cur­rent par­lia­ment, but sug­gested the is­sue could be put to a pop­u­lar vote af­ter the next elec­tion.

De­spite grow­ing public sup­port for same-sex mar­riage, with a poll last year find­ing those in favour of equal rights had reached a record high of 72 per­cent, Aus­tralia has not yet le­galised mar­riage equal­ity.

Ab­bott, a con­ser­va­tive who once trained to be a Catholic priest, called a late night press con­fer­ence on Tues­day to re­veal that a six-hour meet­ing of his Lib­eral/Na­tional coali­tion had come out against al­low­ing MPs a free vote on gay mar­riage.

“We will main­tain our ex­ist­ing po­si­tion for the life of this par­lia­ment,” the prime min­is­ter told the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion. He said he was keep­ing faith with the elec­torate.

“But our dis­po­si­tion, go­ing into the next elec­tion, should we win the next elec­tion, will be to put it to the peo­ple in the next term of par­lia­ment.”

A free vote, in which politi­cians voted ac­cord­ing to their con­science, could have seen the re­form passed if gov­ern­ment politi­cians in favour of gay mar­riage had been al­lowed to side with op­po­si­tion La­bor and in­de­pen­dent MPs to se­cure a ma­jor­ity.

Ab­bott said that same-sex mar­riage was some­thing that had “only very re­cently come into our in­tel­lec­tual and cul­tural pa­ram­e­ters, given that it’s re­ally only this gen­er­a­tion that has ever thought of this”.

“And frankly, prior to that, it would never have oc­curred to any­one in our cul­ture and civil­i­sa­tion that mar­riage was not be­tween a man and a woman,” he said.

“I can re­mem­ber my own univer­sity de­bates with gay friends and the idea that the gay com­mu­nity would in those days have wanted to em­brace a bour­geois in­sti­tu­tion like mar­riage would have been un­think­able, but things change.”

Same-sex cou­ples can have civil unions or register their re­la­tion­ships in most states across Aus­tralia, but the gov­ern­ment does not con­sider them mar­ried un­der na­tional law.

Aus­tralia is ac­cused of lag­ging be­hind a grow­ing num­ber of coun­tries on mar­riage re­form, high­lighted by a re­cent US Supreme Court rul­ing to le­galise same-sex mar­riage and Ire­land vot­ing for the unions in a ref­er­en­dum.

Af­ter the Ir­ish vote in May, Ab­bott said Aus­tralia would not fol­low its lead and hold a ref­er­en­dum and added that any de­ci­sion would be made by par­lia­ment.

The op­po­si­tion said Ab­bott’s about-turn showed he was chang­ing his mind as he went along, while the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald de­scribed the prime min­is­ter’s de­lay­ing tac­tics as “a des­per­ate mea­sure to hold back history”.

“If the Aus­tralian peo­ple want mar­riage equal­ity they are go­ing to have to di­vorce Tony Ab­bott at the next elec­tion,” La­bor front­bencher Jason Clare said.

La­bor leader Bill Shorten has pledged to le­galise gay mar­riage if he wins the next elec­tion, due some­time next year, but said the party had not given up on mar­riage equal­ity in the cur­rent par­lia­ment and would still de­bate the is­sue.

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