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Australia federal law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but other laws give gay partners equal rights to married couples. They get the same tax and social security benefits, and other laws protect homosexuals from employment discrimination.

The latest poll shows about two-thirds of Australians support changing the law to recognize gay marriage.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of the leftist Labor Party has promised to introduce a bill to amend the marriage law, while his chief rival, conservative opposition leader Tony Abbot, supports the current law recognizing traditional marriage.

A parliamentary election next month could signal which way Australia will move on the issue.

The world’s first openly gay diplomatic couple came from Australia. Stephen Berry served as ambassador to Denmark in 1999 and took his partner, Peter Stephens, with him to Copenhagen.

Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at or @EmbassyRow.