Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stood firm on her opposition to gay marriage yesterday, despite US President Barack Obama saying for the first time that same sex couples should be able to wed.
Gillard said when a bill calling for the legalization of gay marriage comes to a vote in parliament later this year, “I won’t vote for it.”
Australia passed an amendment to its laws in 2004 explicitly defining marriage as between a man and woman, but activists believe pressure is mounting for Canberra to extend the right to same-sex couples.
The ruling Labor party overturned its official opposition to gay marriage in December after about 10,000 people marched on its national policy summit, and there are two bills on the issue currently before parliament.
However, Labor has resolved to vote privately rather than along party lines on the issue, meaning there is little prospect of legal change because undecided voters, upon whom the government’s fate typically depends, tend to oppose it.
Speaking to reporters following Obama’s remarks, Gillard said: “I’ve made my mind up and my position on this is well known.”
“This is a matter that people form their own views on, a deeply personal question, people will think about it, work their way through it,” she said.
In Australia marriage is mandated by federal legislation, so although civil same-sex unions are recognized in five states, the couples are not seen as “married” by the national government.
All the same, same-sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples in areas such as pension schemes and medical benefits.