NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has publicly declared his support for marriage equality.

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, O’Farrell said that while he would prefer for marriage equality to be legalised through federal Parliament, he would vote for legislation allowing same-sex marriage if a current state parliamentary inquiry finds NSW can act alone.

“My view – a view that I’ve come to in recent years – is that as a Liberal who believes that commitment and family units are one of the best ways in which society is organised, I support the concept of same-sex marriage,” O’Farrell said.

“We should, as governments, be encouraging commitment. As societies we should be encouraging commitment. Because, ultimately, people caring for each other works side by side with governments to create better communities.”

The premier elaborated further at a doorstop interview in Canberra this morning, saying that “government shouldn’t deny the right to loving relationships they extend to other families”.

“Let’s do it in the nation’s Parliament, let’s catch up with New Zealand again. It was New Zealand in 1893 who first gave votes to women. It took us another nine years to do it – it shouldn’t have to take another nine years to get the lead on our friends across the ditch.”

O’Farrell’s support for marriage equality puts him at odds with the federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. Asked on Abbott’s views, O’Farrell replied that Parliament ”ought to reflect the community and allow same-sex marriage”.

“I think in coming to that decision the federal Parliament should do so by way of a conscience vote across all parties,” he said.

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