Australia has a new prime minister, and he supports marriage equality.
Members of the nation’s ruling Liberal Party elected Malcolm Turnbull (pictured above) as leader Monday, ousting Tony Abbott, who did not want Parliament to vote on marriage equality, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. The ascension to party leader means Turnbull will replace Abbott as prime minister.
This was the second challenge Abbott had faced in the past seven months, mostly because of discontent over his handling of Australia’s economy, The New York Times reports. But Turnbull, formerly the nation’s communications minister, had differed with Abbott on several other issues, including marriage equality.
Turnbull “dodged a question” on marriage equality at a news conference after his election, the Times reports, but in the past he has voiced support for it. Abbott had opposed letting Parliament take a “conscience vote” on marriage rights for same-sex couples, meaning members would be free to vote based on their own views, not the position of their party, without being penalized. A coalition of the Liberal and National parties, which holds a majority of seats in Parliament and opposes marriage equality, rejected a proposal for a conscience vote last month. Abbott had suggested holding a nonbinding national referendum on the issue instead.
The Liberal Party, despite its name, is actually the more conservative of Australia’s two major political parties. Labor is the other major party. Turnbull is expected to be more liberal, in the usual sense, than Abbott on many matters.
The Human Rights Campaign’s international arm called on Turnbull to allow a conscience vote on marriage equality in the near future. “It’s encouraging that such a staunch opponent to marriage equality is no longer in a position to stand in the way of progress for LGBT Australians,” said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global, in a press release. “We urge the new prime minister to stand on the right side of history by moving quickly to allow a vote on the critical legislation that will finally allow loving and committed same-sex couples in Australia the right to marry.”
Surveys indicate that three-quarters of Australians support marriage equality.