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Gillard Backs Conscience Vote for Gay Marriage

Gillard Backs Conscience Vote for Gay Marriage


Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced her support for a conscience vote on same-sex marriage in parliament, although prospects for the measure remain challenging.

Gillard called for the conscience vote Monday in advance of the national conference of her Australian Labor Party in December. Her move was predicted last month as a step designed to diffuse tension around debate of the issue at the conference.

The prime minister wrote in The Age that because same-sex marriage is a highly personal and contentious issue, a conscience vote would allow MPs to decide ''according to their own values and beliefs." However, Gillard personally opposes same-sex marriage and would like the party to maintain that stance.

"My position flows from my strong conviction that the institution of marriage has come to have a particular meaning and standing in our culture and nation and that should continue unchanged," she wrote.

The conscience vote falls short of the wholesale change in party platform being sought by other Labor leaders. They anticipate an uphill battle for a conscience vote on same-sex marriage in parliament.

"The Right backs a conscience vote but the Left will push to legalise gay marriage outright because it knows that if there is a conscience vote, there will not be sufficient numbers in Parliament to pass any subsequent private member's bill," reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows that support for marriage equality has increased to almost two-thirds of voters in Australia.

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Julie Bolcer