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Australian Leader Voices Support for LGBT Community

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Tony Abbott, leader of Australia's opposition Liberal Party, voiced his support for stronger nondiscrimination laws in the nation when speaking with LGBT Melbourne radio station JOY94.9 this week, Pink News reported.

"In principle, I would support it," Abbott said of heightened nondiscrimination protections.

Abbott said he was "very happy to look at" civil unions but reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage.

"I'm in favor of stable, enduring relationships," Abbott said. "I'm in favor of people keeping their commitments to people. I would be very sympathetic to some institutional arrangement which encouraged that across the board, rather than in just what might be described as the more common or traditional contexts."

Abbott's comments drew praise in addition to criticism from LGBT groups.

"Why does Tony Abbott want to invent an entirely new federal scheme for recognizing and fostering 'stable, enduring relationships' when we already have one, called marriage," Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Alex Greenwich said.

"The absence of national discrimination protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people is a shameful gap in Australia's human rights framework," added Corey Irlam of the Australian Coalition for Marriage Equality.

Last week Abbott enraged many civil rights activists when he said he felt "a bit threatened" by homosexuality.

"I'm a 53-year-old bloke from a traditional background," Abbott said of last week's interview. "I've had orthodox Catholic teachings in my youth, and it takes time ... to come to a more balanced and nuanced understanding of these things. I think blokes of my generation and upbringing do sometimes find these things a bit confronting. Anything that is different can be a bit challenging."

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