The change of heart by former Victorian Liberal Premier, Jeff Kennett, shows what can happen when people are presented with the facts about why marriage equality matters for young Australians who are coming to terms with their sexuality, the Greens said today.
"Mr Kennett used to oppose letting same-sex couples have the right to choose whether to get married, but he's now a supporter of marriage equality and urges respect for all people," Greens' human rights spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, said.
"He's come a long way in his thinking and now argues he has no right to say to someone they can't live their life in partnership with someone else.
"I am heartened by what Mr Kennett has done and that Beyond Blue now backs marriage equality because it understands the significant negative impact that continued discrimination is having on young gay and lesbian men and women.
"As psychologists have told the Melbourne hearing into my Marriage Equality Bill today, numerous mental health benefits will accrue to members of the LGBTI community should the Australian parliament remove discrimination in Marriage Act and allow full equality.
"It is time for MPs to listen to the experts and for Tony Abbott to stop resisting calls from within his own Coalition for a conscience vote in parliament.
"Tens of thousands of Australians have lodged submissions in support of marriage equality - the most in the history of the parliament. Parents have told of how important it is that their government treats their children equally, regardless of their sexuality. Survey after survey shows most Australians support marriage equality.
"Mr Kennett has changed his mind and is showing leadership on marriage equality. The least Tony Abbott can do is change his mind against a conscience vote, so the federal parliament can pass the necessary amendment this year."
Audio of Sarah's Melbourne door stop on marriage equality town hall hearing.