Sister of Australian Gay Marriage Opponent Comes Out

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com April 09 2012 9:00 AM ET

Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott shows no sign of supporting marriage equality despite his sister’s coming out publicly as a lesbian.

Christine Forster, 47, revealed over the weekend that she is in a relationship with another woman, Virginia Edwards. She told The Australian, “I have decided to publicly confirm that I am gay and am in a committed, live-in relationship with Virginia.”

The Australian Associated Press reports that marriage equality advocates were hopeful Forster’s story would change the stance of Abbott, who so far has refused to allow his Coalition MPs a conscience vote on the issue. The Australian Labor Party voted in December to change its platform to support marriage equality, over the objections of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who believes that marriage should be reserved for opposite-sex couples. The historic vote did not make the platform change binding, however, instead moving to permit a conscience vote in parliament.

Abbott, who has known his sister was a lesbian for four years, said he admired her and had struggled with the issue of same-sex marriage, but her public announcement would not change his political position. He insisted that maintaining the Coalition’s position was a matter of “political integrity.”

"We went into the election with a position and as far as I'm concerned, that's the position we will keep," he said, the AAP reported.

A poll commissioned by the lobby group Australians for Marriage Equality in February found that two thirds of those surveyed support marriage equality, and three private members’ bills are pending in parliament, according to Pink News. Federal parliamentary inquiries on marriage equality have been under way, with submissions to the Senate committee closing on Friday and the House of Representatives taking submissions until April 20.