Sydney. Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard has endorsed a bid to bring the global gay rugby championships to Sydney in 2014, offering “strong” support despite her opposition to same-sex marriage.
Gillard, Australia’s first female, unmarried and atheist leader, gave the Sydney Convicts gay rugby club’s campaign to host the seventh biennial Bingham Cup her backing with a video message published online Tuesday.
The Bingham Cup is named after American gay rugby player Mark Bingham, who died on United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed into a Pennsylvania field as part of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
“Australia is a sports-loving nation which also has an abiding commitment to diversity and mutual respect,” Gillard said in the video, released on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
“The vibrant city of Sydney is the perfect location for the Bingham Cup, and the Sydney Convicts, Australia’s first gay rugby union club, are the perfect hosts.”
Gillard pointed to Sydney’s hosting of major sporting events including the 2000 Olympics, 2003 Rugby World Cup and the Gay Games in 2002, which she said had showcased the city’s “remarkable spirit of openness and celebration.”
“I know Bingham Cup participants would receive the same warm and generous welcome, so I strongly endorse the Convicts bid.”
Gillard’s support follows her cancellation last week of a speaking engagement at the Australian Christian Lobby after the ultra-conservative group’s chief said homosexual lifestyles were worse for health than smoking.
The prime minister strongly opposes legalizing gay marriage, although her center-left Labor party formally adopted a pro-gay marriage platform last year.
Marriage is covered by federal legislation in Australia which defines it as between a man and a woman. So while civil same-sex unions are recognized in several states, they are not considered “married” by the national government.
Same-sex couples have, however, the same rights as heterosexual couples in areas such as pension schemes and medical benefits.