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Australia: State opposition leader u-turns and backs gay marriage

Australia: State opposition leader u-turns and backs gay marriage

The opposition leader in New South Wales has u-turned on gay marriage after voting against reform in the Australian state in 2013.

On becoming Labor leader in January, Luke Foley said he would keep ‘an open mind’ and ‘continue to reflect’ on the issue, which cynics saw as a non-commital halfway ground ahead of the March elections.

But today, the practising Catholic spoke in favor of overturning a federal ban on gay marriage.

‘I’m now at a point where I’m willing to give my support to a change to the law, to the Marriage Act, so as to provide for same-sex marriage,’ he told Fairfax Media.

Foley admitted he had ‘come somewhat late to the table on this.’

‘For a lot of people on both sides of the debate it’s been a black-and-white issue – they’ve come to their view very easily,’ he said.

‘For me it’s been far more complex. I grew up with a very traditional view of marriage. That it was between a man and a woman. But I also believe in equality. My whole political involvement has been about promoting equality.’

Marriage equality advocates praised Foley and said if he can evolve so could Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

‘I congratulate Luke Foley for both his decision to support marriage equality and for the reflective, consultative path he took to come to that decision,’ Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said.

‘His evolution on marriage equality will encourage other MPs to do the same and provides a positive example for community members still conflicted by the reform.

‘If, as a Catholic, Luke Foley can evolve on marriage equality then so can Tony Abbott by allowing a free vote for all coalition MPs.

Croome said all Labor leaders, state and federal, now supported marriage equality.

‘Having all state and federal Labor leaders in support of marriage equality sends a message to opponents of the reform within the ALP that they are on the wrong side of history, the electorate and Labor values,’ he said.