Same-sex plebiscite by year-end: Australian minister


Sydney (AFP)

Australia's attorney-general said on Sunday the government would hold a plebiscite on legalising same-sex marriage this year if re-elected, a day after the prime minister became the first sitting leader to attend the Mardi Gras parade.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is well-known for his support of gay marriage, has said he would continue his predecessor Tony Abbott's policy of holding a plebiscite on the issue instead of a parliamentary vote.

"Were the government to be re-elected, there will be a plebiscite. The plebiscite will occur before the end of this year," Attorney-General George Brandis told Sky News.

"The bill to constitute the plebiscite will be introduced early in the life of the parliament... in the event that there would be a 'yes' vote the government would legislate to give effect to the wishes of the people.

"Treating gay people equally is, I think, one of the fundamental values of modern Australian society," he added, saying he was in favour of same-sex marriage.

Turnbull said Saturday he was "delighted" to attend the annual gay and lesbian parade, while Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten was the first leader of a major party to march in the annual event.

Labor has pledged to hold a parliamentary vote on gay marriage within 100 days if it wins the next election.

Turnbull has said previously he expects the election to take place between August to October. But his office, when contacted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation later Sunday, could not say if the plebiscite would be held by the end of the year.

Same-sex couples can have civil unions or register their relationships in most states across Australia, but the government does not consider them married under national law.