Change of heart over gay marriage
Australia’s opposition leader yesterday explained his shift on gay marriage, which will be a key issue in this weekend’s elections. The centre-left Labour Party opposes the conservative government’s plan to hold a plebiscite this year to allow the public a direct say on whether Australia should give legal recognition to same-sex marriage. Opposition leader Bill Shorten confirmed a newspaper report, three days before the election, that he had told Christian church leaders in 2013 that he supported holding such a plebiscite. Labour’s position now is that Parliament should make the decision on samesex marriage. Shorten cited as a reason for his change of heart the Irish referendum in May last year in which 62 per cent of Irish voters called for their constitution to be changed to allow same-sex marriage. “That debate, whilst it was ultimately successful, did trigger some very ugly arguments,” said Shorten. “I think the people of Australia, the majority of them, have clearly moved - even in the last two or three years - to supporting marriage equality and all popular opinion polls would seem to indicate the truth of what I’m saying.” Both Shorten and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull support same sex marriage, but differ on how it should be achieved. Shorten has promised that if his party was elected the first legislation he would introduce to Parliament would be a bill to overturn Australia’s ban on same-sex marriage.