Ex-Australia PM Gillard reverses gay marriage stance
Former Australian PM Julia Gillard has dropped her opposition to gay marriage, revealing she would now vote for it.
Her comments come in the midst of a national debate about changing the law to allow same-sex marriage.
Her back flip has sparked criticism on social media and from some politicians who say she could have taken action when she was in power.
In 2012, during her leadership, Ms Gillard voted against a private member's bill allowing gay marriages.
The former Labor leader now says the debate on the issue has caused her to "re-examine some fundamental assumptions I have held".
In a lecture she gave on Wednesday night at Victoria University, Ms Gillard said her feminist views had led her to question "from a gender perspective" the value of traditional marriage.
"The nature of Australia's contemporary debate on same-sex marriage has caused me to re-examine some fundamental assumptions I have held," she said.
"In my time post-politics, as key countries have moved to embrace same-sex marriage, I have identified that my preferred reform direction was most assuredly not winning hearts and minds."
In 2011, Ms Gillard said in a TV interview "there are some important things from our past that need to continue to be part of our present and part of our future".
"For our culture, for our heritage, the Marriage Act and marriage being between a man and a woman has a special status," she said.
Getting married in Australia
- Australia's Marriage Act specifies marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
- Opinion polls taken over the past year show between 60% and 72% of Australians support gay marriage.
- Officially, the ruling Liberal-National coalition does not support gay marriage.
- The opposition Labor party endorses gay marriage, but allows its MPs a conscience vote on legislation.
Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said on Thursday he never really believed Ms Gillard's previous stance.
"Knowing her background and history from student politics, I was always very surprised she was against marriage equality, and quite frankly I didn't believe it," Mr Pyne told the Seven Network.
Another private member's bill, put forward by a Government backbencher, is currently before the parliament but the Coalition government's official position is to leave the Marriage Act unchanged.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has banned his MPs from a free vote on any same-sex marriage bill but suggested a non-binding plebiscite could he held after a general election in 2016.