Ex-PM Julia Gillard U-turns as she declares support for same-sex marriage

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Australia’s ex-PM has spoken out in favour of same-sex marriage despite voting against marriage equality during her leadership.

During her tenure as leader of Australia’s Labour Party, Gillard re-affirmed the party’s stance against gay marriage, and voted against its legalisation in Australia, despite allowing a conscience vote on the issue, in 2012.

Speaking at Melbourne’s College of Law and Justice, however, she admitted that her position in the failed 2012 vote was “idiosyncratic”.

Gillard explained that now “key countries” have embraced same-sex marriage, given the opportunity, she would vote ‘Yes’ for its legalization in Australia.

Furthermore, Gillard proceeded to attack current Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s proposal to hold a referendum or plebiscite in order to resolve the issue, instead of a conscience vote.

A conscience vote would allow for Australian MP’s to vote according to their personal beliefs, rather than having to follow their party’s line on the matter. Abbott has instead threatened to sack ministers who vote for equal marriage, and in its place proposed a referendum or plebiscite.

Gillard explained that, “if all political parties had a conscience vote or clear policy, then in line with our normal democratic workings, people could question political candidates about same-sex marriage at the next election and decide to vote for a candidate who reflects their views.”

She further argued that a referendum or plebiscite regarding the decision would undermine public confidence in the parliamentary process. Rodney Croome, national director of Australian Marriage Equality, has also previously warned that holding a plebiscite could delay the legalisation of same-sex marriage till 2017.

Additionally, Croome praised Gillard’s renewed stance, stating: “We welcome Julia Gillard’s decision because it shows that even the most high-profile opponents of marriage equality can open their hearts to the reform”. He continued, however, to urge other political leaders “not to wait until it is too late for them to show leadership in parliament”.