Australia’s new Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has confirmed her support for marriage equality.

In an interview in today’s Australian Roxon, who yesterday became the country’s first female Auditor-General, said she plans to toughen anti-discrimination laws, promote human rights and reignite the debate on Australia becoming a republic.

The interviews claims Ms Roxon will vote for marriage equality when the conscience vote comes before the parliament in 2012. The Attorney-General’s office would be responsible on advising the Government on any proposed changes to the Marriage Act.

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convener Alex Greenwich said Roxon’s position was an example of how thinking around the issue had changed since 2004 when, as shadow attorney-general, Roxon voted for John Howard’s ban on same-sex marriage.

“Nicola Roxon has engaged the electorate on this issue and like most Australians has changed her mind to support equality,” Greenwich said.

“She understands that this is a clear area of discrimination that impacts couples, families, and communities across Australia.

“In her new role as Attorney-General we are hopeful she will have the historic opportunity to put into law Labor’s marriage equality policy and the wishes of a clear majority of Australians.”

Roxon was one of several key Gillard supporters promoted in yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle.

Sydney MP Tanya Plibersek, already an outspoken supporter of marriage equality, was promoted to the role of Health Minister.

Meanwhile, pressure continues to mount on Opposition Leader Tony Abbot to allow Coalition MPs a marriage equality conscience vote.

Greenwich said reports that a Coalition free vote had been summarily dismissed were premature.

“The Coalition and Mr Abbott are not immune to the arguments of love, family, and equality that have won over the hearts and minds of a clear majority of Australians from coast to coast,” he said.

“It was only a few backs when the Labor Party had the same position as Mr Abbott, and we have seen the impact the unstoppable momentum towards reform has had there.”

Greenwich said the calls for a free vote on the proposed legislation are becoming louder and clearer, with reports claiming that Joe Hockey, George Brandis, Christopher Pyne, Greg Hunt and Senator Nigel Scullion have all thrown their support behind a conscience vote.

“What we do know is a number of senior Coalition MPs have joined Malcolm Turnbull, Barry O’Farrell, Simon Birmingham and Barnaby Joyce in supporting a free vote,” Greenwhich said.

“Granting a conscience vote allows Mr Abbott to maintain his opposition to reform, while preventing the tensions and protracted debate that plagued Labor for years to get to that point. It is the sensible move and is backed by the people who elected Mr Abbott.”

Recent polling shows that that 76 percent of Coalition voters want their MPs to be granted a conscience vote.

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