Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull has used a public address to back same-sex marriage, but said given the lack of parliamentary support for change, civil unions legislation should be put forward.

At the annual Michael Kirby lecture on the Gold Coast last night, Turnbull said he finds arguments against allowing same-sex marriage to be hypocritical.

“Let us be honest with each other. The threat to marriage is not the gays. It is a lack of loving commitment – whether it is found in the form of neglect, indifference, cruelty or adultery, to name just a few manifestations of the loveless desert in which too many marriages come to grief,” he said.

Turnbull said if Coalition MPs were allowed a conscience vote on the issue, he would vote in favour of same-sex marriage, but said civil unions legislation is more likely to be supported.

“Many argue that the Liberals’ lack of a conscience vote means the gay marriage bills will not pass,” Turnbull said.

“I don’t think they have the numbers to pass, but I am far from convinced that in the present parliament they would have the numbers even if a conscience vote were permitted.

“So what is to be done? In my judgement while the numbers are not there for gay marriage in this parliament, they are certainly there for civil unions. We should not miss the opportunity to legislate for civil unions for same sex couples in this parliament.”

Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich rejected Turnbull’s calls for a civil unions compromise.

“Wherever civil unions have been enacted they entrench discrimination rather than remove it,” Greenwich said.

“Mr Turnbull should know better than to suggest civil unions as a way forward, especially given that his own electorate survey overwhelmingly rejected civil unions and endorsed marriage equality.

“Civil unions may be a politically expedient cop-out for politicians, but they will never be a solution to the acute hurt and discrimination felt by so many same-sex couples, their families, and their communities.”

See Turnbull’s full speech HERE

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