Tony Abbott rejects calls for referendum on gay marriage after Ireland's historic vote

The prime minister said it was a matter for parliament to decide on

Ben Tufft
Sunday 24 May 2015 09:50 BST

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Louise Thomas

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The Australian prime minister has rejected calls for a referendum on same-sex marriage, in the wake of Ireland’s historic vote to approve the measure.

Tony Abbott said the federal parliament would deal with any changes to the law that were brought before it and stressed referendums were reserved for constitutional changes in Australia.

“I don't think anyone is suggesting the constitution needs to be changed in this respect,” he said.

Mr Abbott is a long-standing opponent of gay marriage, but his latest intervention has provoked criticism in some quarters and, predictably, on social media.

Bill Shorten, the opposition leader who supports gay marriage, also ruled out a referendum but called for parliament to legislate on the matter, calling the prime minister an obstacle to equality.

“If the Irish people can vote in favour of marriage equality, the question has to be asked, what is Tony Abbott's problem with it?” he told ABC News.

Thousands celebrated the 'yes' vote at Dublin Castle (Getty)
Thousands celebrated the 'yes' vote at Dublin Castle (Getty)

“Most places in the world are dealing with marriage equality, why is Tony Abbott stopping Australia becoming a more modern nation?”

Australia is now the only major developed, English-speaking country in the world that bans same-sex couples from marrying anywhere within its borders.

On Friday Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage by a referendum, in which 62.1 per cent of voters backed the change.

All bar one of Ireland’s 43 constituencies voted “yes” to amending the constitution, a result activists in the Catholic country called a “social revolution”.

Enda Kenny, Ireland’s prime minister, said after the result was declared: “With today's vote, we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people.”

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