Australian political party revives same-sex marriage debate following Ireland vote

Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a former Roman Catholic seminarian who opposes same-sex marriage, would not say Wednesday whether government lawmakers would be allowed a free vote.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a former Roman Catholic seminarian who opposes same-sex marriage, would not say Wednesday whether government lawmakers would be allowed a free vote.

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s political opposition plans to harness momentum from the Irish gay marriage referendum by proposing a law next week that would recognize Australian same-sex marriages. But gay rights advocates warned Wednesday against rushing the divided Parliament into a decision.

Labor Party leader Bill Shorten plans to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives on Monday that would change federal law that specifies marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Shorten said Wednesday that the time was right for Parliament to vote for marriage equality after the weekend referendum in which 62 percent of Irish voters called for their constitution to be changed to allow same-sex marriage.

“There is no doubt that at the weekend the Irish referendum has, I think, reignited momentum for the marriage equality debate on the other side of the world in Australia,” Shorten told reporters.

“If a country which is religiously conservative by cultural history can vote for marriage equality, then surely a modern Australia can endorse marriage equality in 2015,” he added.

It could be weeks or even months before Parliament votes on Shorten’s draft law.

A similar bill was soundly rejected by the House of Representatives three years ago, 98 votes to 42.

Shorten has been accused of reviving the campaign too soon and of politicizing the issue. Some lawmakers want the public to decide on same -sex marriage through a referendum.

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Rodney Croome, national director of the Australian Marriage Equality lobby group, welcomed the initiative from a major political party, but said the vote should not be held for several months.

“In the House of Representatives, support is increasing dramatically,” Croome told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “I’m not sure if it’s there yet, but it’s not far off.”

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