Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sided with the communications minister Malcolm Turnbull in an internal liberal party feud over gay marriage.
Turnbull, also a former leader of the Liberal Party, was publicly criticised for voicing his support for same-sex unions, which are not legal in Australia.
“This is a rather unusual subject and I think on subjects such as this there is a certain leeway extended to people,” the prime minister said, according to The ABC.
“The Liberal Party is a broad church, always has been, always will be.”
South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi had said that as a member of the front bench, Turnbull should keep his personal views to himself or resign.
“If Malcolm Turnbull wants to talk about fringe issues outside party policy, he should resign from the frontbench,” said Bernardi.
Another Liberal politician, West Australian MP Dennis Jensen, has described Turnbull’s comments as “unhelpful”.
The Coalition supports a traditional view of marriage, and the party refuses to allow members a conscience vote on the issue.
In an interview on Sunday, Turnbull said Australia would begin to look out of place, as other countries move to allow same-sex unions.
“So people of the same sex can get married in Auckland and Wellington, Toronto and Ottawa and Vancouver, in New York and Los Angeles, Baltimore and Cape Town, but not Australia,” he said.
Turnbull also said he thought the Coalition would eventually allow members a conscience vote, as the Labor party already does.
Last year Bernardi was forced to resign from a shadow parliamentary secretary position for suggestion gay marriage could lead to polygamy and bestiality.
Gay marriage was legal in the Australian Capital Territory for a brief period, until a High Court challenge brought by the Federal Government was successful in having the
legislation thrown out.
According to the High Court judgement, while federal legislation could allow for same-sex unions, rules on marriage were the domain of the federal government.
The ACT legislative council had argued that as federal law currently does not recognise same-sex unions, its law could sit alongside existing regulations.
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