Malcolm Turnbull
Malcolm Turnbull Cade Mooney

Turnbull supports gay marriage

AFTER watching his dear friend subjected to the taunts and discrimination that comes with being a gay man, Malcolm Turnbull has stepped outside his party line to throw empowering and extremely moving support behind gay marriage.

Speaking at a law lecture series at Southern Cross University on the Gold Coast on Friday, Mr Turnbull explained why it was heterosexual relationships threatening the idea of marriage, not same sex relationships.

"I have to say that I am utterly unpersuaded by the proposition that my marriage to (wife) Lucy, or indeed any marriage, is undermined by two gay men or two lesbians setting up house down the road - whether it is called a marriage or not," he said.

"Regrettably, this aspect of the debate is dripping with the worst sort of hypocrisy and the deepest pools are all too often found among the most sanctimonious.

"Let us be honest with each other. The threat to marriage is not the gays.

"It is a lack of loving commitment - whether it is found in the form of neglect, indifference, cruelty or adultery, to name just a few manifestations of the loveless desert in which too many marriages come to grief."

Mr Turnbull's address was delivered at the annual Michael Kirby lecture series, in honour of one of Australia's most accomplished legal professionals.

Justice Kirby, a retired High Court judge, has been a tireless advocate for gay rights and has been in a relationship with his male partner for decades.

Justice Kirby, a close and long-time friend of Mr Turnbull, said he was not aware of Mr Turnbull's keynote topic until Friday night.

The Opposition MP's remarks come as Federal and State Parliaments deliberate over the conundrum that is gay marriage.

Gay marriage is often the source of much angst for religious groups who argue it would threaten the traditional and true institution of marriage.

But according to Mr Turnbull, this is flawed.

"If the conduct of another couple is likely to undermine the marriage of another, it may because they set a bad example," he said.

"If one husband sees another treating his wife neglectfully, he may, possibly, be inclined to think he can do the same. That, I concede, is possible.

"But, do the bishops seriously imagine that legalising gay marriage will result in thousands of parties to heterosexual marriages suddenly deciding to get divorced so they can marry a person of the same sex?

"Are not the gays who seek the right to marry, to formalise their commitment to each other, holding up a mirror to the heterosexuals who are marrying less frequently and divorcing more often?"

Speaking on Queensland turf, where the LNP just moved to repeal civil union laws and water down gay unions to "registered partnerships" Mr Turnbull would not comment on his state party counterparts.

But the Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband addressed the argument of gay couples and children, which follows another controversial Queensland LNP move to make it illegal for same-sex couples to have surrogate children.

While the ideal situation for any child was to have both biological parents, it was not always realistic, he explained.
"…and even if they are not there, both or one of the biological parents are neither loving or wise," he said.

"So the proposition that the ideal parents for any child are their biological parents is a statement in which we can all agree, in generality, which does not apply for one reason or another in many different circumstances."

The Opposition frontbencher's speech - titled courageous by Justice Kirby - follows the delay of two federal bills on civil unions last month.

The bills will come before parliament at least until the end of the year and Coalition leader Tony Abbott has ruled out allowing a conscious vote.

Unfortunately for Mr Turnbull, that means he will not be crossing the floor and will be forced to follow his party directive.

"It is important to remember that unlike the Labor Party our members do not get expelled if they cross the floor," he said.

"So in that sense every vote is a conscience vote, however in this case because the leadership are not permitting a free vote shadow cabinet ministers are bound to vote in accordance with the collective decision.

"If they want to cross the floor then they would be obliged to resign from the shadow ministry and I do not propose to do that."

Despite the risky deviation from his party stance, gay rights groups have titled Mr Turnbull's remarks a cop out.

"Mr Turnbull should know better than to suggest civil unions as a way forward, especially given that his own electorate survey overwhelmingly rejected civil unions and endorsed marriage equality," Australian Marriage Equality National Convener Alex Greenwich said.

"Civil unions may be a politically expedient cop-out for politicians, but they will never be a solution to the acute hurt and discrimination felt by so many same-sex couples, their families, and their communities"

Mr Turnbull conceded while many would think civil unions were not good enough, it was better than nothing.

Providing a glimpse of hope for same sex marriage hopefuls, Mr Turnbull concluded with a few kind words on Friday night for his friend Justice Kirby,"who may, indeed, one day be able to marry his prince."

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