SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard vowed not to alter her stance on same-sex marriage despite New Zealand giving it the go-ahead, with hundreds of couples expected to make the journey to tie the knot.
Last September, Australia’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject the move, and both Gillard and staunchly Catholic opposition leader Tony Abbott, widely tipped to win national elections later this year, voted against it.
The unmarried Gillard told a community forum late Wednesday that the New Zealand breakthrough would not change her mind, saying, “On same-sex marriage, marriage equality, I doubt we’re going to end up agreeing, sorry.”
Advocates say gay marriage has broad support in Australia, where same-sex unions are recognized in five states. But as marriage is covered by federal legislation, which defines it as only between a man and a woman, couples joined in civil unions are not recognized by the national government as married.
Still, the change in New Zealand could put pressure on its neighbor. Australian Marriage Equality national convener Rodney Croome labeled the vote a “game changer” because of the close links between the two countries. “I believe that any politician who ignores support for this in the community will lose votes as a result,” he told ABC radio.
He said that since Friday, 1,000 people had signed an online survey saying they would travel to New Zealand to wed.
“There’s this really big, pentup demand for this in Australia,” Croome said. “New Zealand is just a three-hour plane ride away, and many couples are going to go to New Zealand to marry. They are just so sick and tired of waiting for the government to act. I think it’s going to spark this big tourism boom.”