1 Jul 2016

Same-sex marriage debate dominates campaign

7:04 am on 1 July 2016

Same sex marriage has dominated the final few days of the Australian federal election campaign.

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Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised to hold a national vote on the subject before the end of the year if the Coalition was re-elected. But the proposed plebiscite would not bind his MPs or even his cabinet ministers.

The Opposition pledged to introduce a same-sex marriage bill into Parliament in the first 100 days of a Labor government.

Mr Turnbull said he would be voting yes in a national vote on same-sex marriage if his government was reinstated on Saturday.

He was convinced that if the nation also voted in favour, a bill enacting the change would sail through the parliament.

But the Australian Labor Party said the vote was a waste of time and money, as it would not be binding on MPs.

Two senior ministers have already refused to say how they would vote after the outcome of the plebiscite.

A spokesperson for Australian Marriage Equality Shelley Argent said a national vote was unnecessary.

"In 2014 polling found that actually 72 percent of Australians did support same sex marriage. So certainly the public is there, it's just a matter of parliament catching up."

"It would be easy for have this go through parliament and that would be our preferred way of seeing his reform happen."

But managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby Lyle Shelton said Parliament had spent too much time, getting nowhere, on the issue, and the public deserved better.

"There's been multiple parliamentary inquiries, senate inquiries, the Greens' kept putting bills up. Bill Shorten has put bills up. It just comes up all the time.

"The government just got sick of this attempt at legislation by fatigue and said it should really go back to the people for them to decide and resolve the issue for the nation and I think that's a good thing."

Mr Shelton said Australian had not had a discussion where both sides of the debate had been heard.

"The longer people get to consider and focus on the issues and realise that there are consequences that affect people's freedom of speech, freedom of religion, affect the rights of children. When people start to understand that it has a more nuanced, mature debate, that goes beyond the slogans of marriage equality, the public support does tend to shift."

However, in Sydney's Hyde Park, those that RNZ spoke to were confused why the country was still arguing about the matter.

"Most Australians don't have a problem with it and it's just embarrassing that we're still talking about it," said one.

"I believe in same sex marriage, I think it's just a basic human right and every one should be entitled to that right."

"It doesn't matter who you love."

Sydney resident Roger Henning who has been in a same sex relationship for nearly 28 years said he may consider getting married if it became law.

"It's about time, I'm just amazed at how attitudes have changed in the last decades or so."

Labor leader Bill Shorten also believed community attitudes had moved and Australians were ready for the parliament to vote same-sex marriage into law.

For one thing, it's the first time the leaders of the two major parties have been in support of it.

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