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Australia PM unmoved by Obama on gay marriage

10 may 2012, 18:40
Australian PM Julia Gillard. Photo courtesy of abc.net.au
Australian PM Julia Gillard. Photo courtesy of abc.net.au
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stood firm on her opposition to gay marriage Thursday, despite US President Barack Obama saying for the first time that same sex couples should be able to wed, AFP reports.

Gillard said when a bill calling for the legalisation 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 some 10,000 people marched on its national policy summit, and there are two bills on the issue currently before parliament.

But 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."

Labor failed to win an outright majority at the polls in 2010 and have a fragile coalition majority of just one seat, with their chances of winning a third term in 2013 dogged by a series of scandals and unpopular policies.

In Australia marriage is mandated by federal legislation, so although civil same-sex unions are recognised 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.

Obama's statement threw US pundits into a frenzy over whether he had hindered his chances of re-election later this year.

His likely opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, supports an amendment banning gay marriage in the United States.

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