Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull backs equal marriage ‘because I’m a conservative’

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has backed equal marriage, despite much controversy over his approach to the issue.

The Australian government is this month holding a public postal vote on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

The vote has been controversial, with right-wing PM Malcolm Turnbull accused of “cowardice” for putting the issue to the public instead of standing up to his own party’s anti-gay lobby in Parliament.

Mr Turnbull, a personal supporter of same-sex marriage whose reputation has been deeply damaged by the fiasco, addressed an equal marriage rally for the first time today.

Though Mr Turnbull has largely stayed out of the fray so far and has seldom spoken out against anti-LGBT campaigners during the campaign, the leader did speak at the launch of the Yes campaign in Sydney, New South Wales, in an in unannounced public appearance.

Malcolm Turnbull

Speaking at the ‘Yes’ rally, the leader said: “I’m voting yes because fundamentally this is an issue of fairness.

“Throughout my public life I’ve sought to ensure same-sex couples are not discriminated against and their entitlements – be it in respect of medical benefits, taxation, superannuation or employment – are no different to those afforded to heterosexual couples.

“Why then shouldn’t those same rights now be extended to marriage?”

The leader lightly challenged scaremongering from the ‘No’ camp, citing the 23 countries around the world that already have equal marriage with little consequence.

He said: “In any one of those nations, has the sky fallen in? Has life as we know it come to a halt? Has traditional marriage as we know it been undermined? The answer is no.”

The comments come despite his own senior officials and MPs leading smears. Mr Turnbull avoided any strong criticism of the No camp.

The Prime Minister also quoted former British leader David Cameron, a fellow Conservative politician who championed equal marriage.

Quoting the former British PM, he said: “To anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other.

“So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”

Of course, some may point out that Mr Cameron took on anti-LGBT voices within his own government to pass equal marriage through Parliament, whereas Mr Turnbull fled from opponents in Parliament and instead put the issue to an unnecessary public vote.

Mr Turnbull insisted: “This is not a cause that divides along party political lines, as much as some others might suggest. It is a matter on which every Australian is entitled to their own opinion.

“In our own parties, there will be many who vote No, as well as many who will vote Yes. That is our complete democratic right as citizens to have our own say in this postal survey.

“Many people will vote Yes as I will, because they believe the right to marriage is a conservative ideal as much as any other conservative principle.”

He added: “I am utterly unpersuaded by the proposition that my marriage to Lucy, 38 years long next March, or indeed any marriage, is undermined by two gay men or two gay women setting up house down the road, whether it is called a marriage or not.”

We held our own public vote on whether Mr and Mrs Turnbull should have the right to marriage last month.