Australians warm up to gay marriage

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AFP

A signboard urging support of gay marriage attracts passersby in downtown Sydney in 2013. Picture: Saeed Khan

Sydney -

Support for same-sex marriage has reached a record high in Australia, a poll showed on Tuesday, as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to allow a conscience vote on the issue.

The survey by Crosby Textor - the national pollster for the ruling Liberal Party - found 72 percent of Australians supported marriage equality, with about half of those strongly supporting it.

Pollster Mark Textor said backing for same-sex marriage had been steadily rising from the 38 percent recorded by another researcher, Newspoll, a decade ago.

“With Australians across all key demographics supporting marriage equality in record numbers, it's fair to say the public has made up its mind,” said Australian Marriage Equality director Rodney Croome.

“The community debate is over, and it's time for politicians to act.”

The survey released on Tuesday of 1 000 Australians ramps up pressure on Abbott, whose sister is gay, to allow his MPs a conscience vote.

New Liberal Democratic senator David Leyonhjelm said Monday he may bring a private member's bill to parliament to redefine the Marriage Act.

The conservative government is opposed to gay marriage and a vote on the issue in 2012 was defeated 98 to 42 after Abbott refused to allow his MPs, then in opposition, to break with party lines, rendering it a null prospect.

Labor favours same-sex marriage and senator Penny Wong, who is openly gay, said she wanted the laws to change.

“We don't want this to fail again - we want a debate which has the capacity of a bill passing, and marriage equality being achieved,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“But to get that we've got to have Tony Abbott being prepared to allow his party to vote with their conscience.”

The Crosby Textor poll said 77 percent of people supported a conscience vote.

Gay marriage was explicitly outlawed in Australia under a 2004 revision of the national Marriage Act by the conservative prime minister at the time, John Howard.

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 continues to lag behind a growing number of countries on marriage reform, including neighbouring New Zealand, Britain and some US states. - Sapa-AFP


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