Australian opposition introduces bill to legalize same-sex marriage

Mon Jun 1, 2015 7:22am EDT
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By Matt Siegel

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The leader of Australia's opposition Labor Party introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage on Monday, adding the backing of a major party to growing public support for the issue after last month's landmark 'yes' vote in Ireland.

Labor Party leader Bill Shorten introduced the bill in the government-dominated lower house of parliament despite opposition from conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is not expected to allow it to come up for a vote.

The proposal, the first by a leader of a major Australian political party, added to pressure on the government to allow a vote sooner rather than later.

"The laws of our nation should give us hope. Our laws should tell our children what we believe. Our laws should tell strangers who Australians are," Shorten told parliament, where government benches were noticeably empty.

"It is time," he said, to resounding applause from the chamber's visitors gallery.

Ireland backed same-sex marriage by a landslide in a referendum last month that marked a dramatic social shift in a traditionally Catholic country that only decriminalized homosexuality two decades ago.

A telephone survey of 1,000 people conducted in Australia a year ago by polling agency Crosby-Textor found support for legalizing same-sex marriage at 72 percent.

Abbott, a socially conservative Catholic, said on Monday the government was focused on passing legislation to help small businesses and did not want a vote on same-sex marriage to distract from that issue.   Continued...

A gay-rights activist holds a banner during a rally supporting same-sex marriage in Sydney, Australia May 31, 2015.  REUTERS/David Gray