Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is well known for his stance in favour of same sex marriage.Stefan Postles/Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised to hold a referendum on legalising same-sex marriage if his government is re-elected on 2 July. The latest opinion polls have revealed that the ruling Liberals and the opposition Labour are currently neck-to-neck in the race.

Prime Minister Turnbull is well known for his support of same-sex marriage and favours a referendum vote on the issue rather than a parliamentary vote. However, Labour has said that the referendum would be a "taxpayer-funded platform for homophobia" and has pledged to hold a parliamentary vote.

Labour leader Bill Shorten said on 19 June: "In modern Australia, no one should have to justify their sexuality or their love, to anyone else. And instead of sitting in judgement, instead of providing a taxpayer-funded platform for homophobia, we will gift every Australian an equal right in respect of love. Nothing less."

The Labour leader has promised to hold a parliamentary vote to change the Marriage Act within 100 days of winning the election, warning the public that a referendum would trigger underlying homophobia. The issue of same-sex marriage has become a key election issue, alongside economic management, immigration and climate change.

Australia has been viewed as lagging behind in LGBT rights, falling short of a number of countries who have already legalised same-sex marriage. Under current Australian law, same-sex couples are able to have civil unions and register their relationships in most states, however, they are not considered officially married by the government.

On 20 June, Turnbull became the first sitting Australian leader to attend the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, where he said: "We have a very clear policy which is that every Australian will get a vote on the subject. I would hope that the plebiscite could be held before the end of the year."

The Australian Prime Minister said that if his party wins the election, the referendum vote on same-sex marriage would be held as soon as parliament resumes in August.