Malcolm Turnbull has given his most forceful endorsement of same-sex marriage since the postal survey was announced as both the Prime Minister and Bill Shorten threw their support behind the ‘Yes’ campaign on Sunday.
Mr Turnbull, who had indicated he would be voting ‘yes’ but had refused to commit to campaigning, gave a surprise speech at the Liberals and Nationals for ‘Yes’ campaign launch, arguing that same-sex marriage had been a proven success in other like-minded English-speaking countries.
“In any one of those countries, has the sky fallen in? Has life as we know it, ground to a halt? Has traditional marriage been undermined? The answer is plainly no,” Mr Turnbull said.
Instead, the Prime Minister said the “threat to marriage today” was not gay marriage but a “lack of commitment”.
“And I have to say that I am utterly unpersuaded by the proposition that my marriage to Lucy, 38 years long next March or indeed any marriage, is undermined by two gay men or two gay women setting up house down the road – whether it is called a marriage or not,” he said.
Speaking to a room of Liberals and Nationals, Mr Turnbull portrayed the social reform as a consistent with conservative ideals.
“In our own parties, there will be many who vote ‘no’, and many such as those here who will vote yes – that is our complete democratic right as citizens to have our own say in this postal survey,” he said.
“But you know many people will vote ‘yes’ as I will because they believe the right to marry is a conservative ideal as much as any other principle, conservative principle.”
Mr Turnbull was joined by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Tony Abbott’s openly gay sister Christine Forster at the event.
His surprise speech preceded what advocates claimed was the largest ever LGBTI rights rally ever to take place in Australia, with an estimated 30,000 people marching through the streets of central Sydney on Sunday afternoon.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who supports same-sex marriage and has committed Labor to campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote, told the crowd the vote was solely about marriage and not “about a whole lot of extraneous rubbish”.
“What this world needs, and what this country needs, is we need help to maintain families, we need help to raise children, and that is why we need marriage equality,” Mr Shorten said.
He also apologised to the crowd “for all of the hurtful and stupid things which have been said and are going to be said until we win marriage equality”.
“I’m sorry to all LBGTIQ Australians because we have one more mountain to climb, but we will climb it together,” he said.
The Opposition Leader also repeated his commitment that a new Labor government would legislate same-sex marriage regardless of the outcome of the postal survey.
That drew criticism from prominent ‘no’ campaigner and Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton.
— Lyle Shelton (@LyleShelton) September 10, 2017
Thousands turned out for the rally in support of same-sex marriage with supporters marching to Circular Quay on Sydney’s iconic gay precinct, Oxford Street.
It came amid concern for ‘Yes’ campaigners following internal polling that showed a shock dip in support for same-sex marriage, Fairfax reported.
Ballots for the postal survey will be mailed out on Tuesday with the result announced on November 15 at 11.30am.