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Sister of prime minister of Australia, which has upcoming same-sex marriage vote, gets support from Keys couple

Gathered for some drinks are (from left) Aaron Huntsman, Christine Forster, Virginia Edwards, Robert Kelly, Mark Ebenhoch and William Lee Jones.
Gathered for some drinks are (from left) Aaron Huntsman, Christine Forster, Virginia Edwards, Robert Kelly, Mark Ebenhoch and William Lee Jones.

Sometimes the unlikeliest alliances are formed by happenstance.

That's what Aaron Huntsman and Christine Forster found out this past week when Forster and her significant other, Virginia Edwards, went to the Aqua nightclub on Duval Street in Key West on Tuesday. Forster -- a Sydney, Australia, councilwoman and sister to Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott -- says she and Edwards just wanted to see a drag show.

What they got in addition to that was advice about convincing people that same-sex marriage is OK. Perfect timing, really: Australia's Parliament is set to vote in August on whether to allow same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it constitutional in this country on June 26.

"There are a few steps to get through," Forster said Friday of same-sex marriage in Australia before flying home. "The next few weeks are going to be crunch time."

Huntsman and his partner William Lee Jones were the first gay couple in Florida to get a judge to rule same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, and they married in January when Florida's same-sex marriage ban was struck down. They had sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin in 2014 when they were denied a marriage license.

Huntsman was bartending at Aqua Tuesday night and his attorney Bernadette Restivo was there to compete in a karaoke contest to raise money for an animal group.

"Bernadette started a conversation, they started a conversation. She said to me, 'You need to get from behind the bar and talk to these ladies.' She was like, ' This is Christine, this is Virginia, they are fighting for marriage equality,'" Huntsman said.

"They hung out, they went out for dinner, they came back for karaoke, then we got to talking," he said.

Forster, 51, was married for 20 years and has four children. She divorced in 2007 and she and Edwards, 57, have been together ever since. They want to get married in their country. But right now, they can't -- they are waiting to see what Parliament will do next month.

A lot of it has to do with Forster's brother the prime minister -- who opposes same-sex marriage.

"It's not so bad because we love each other," she said. "Obviously, we love and respect each other. We have a difference of opinion and we just respectfully disagree. It's an interesting issue because we are public figures. It doesn't affect our conversation."

Huntsman himself knows how that is, sort of. His cousin is John Huntsman, a former Utah governor, former U.S. ambassador to Singapore and onetime Republican presidential candidate. He once was opposed to same-sex marriage but in 2012 reversed himself.

Same thing with Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who reversed himself after his son came out as gay.

Then there's Dick Cheney, the former vice president whose daughter has come out as gay. Cheney, unlike Portman, has been silent on the issue.

"I feel for the Cheney family," Forster said. "Although Tony [her brother] and I have differences of opinion on this, we do love and respect each other."

She's hopeful that Australia's Parliament will go the way of the U.S., Greenland, Ireland, Finland and other nations that have said same-sex marriage is a right.

"That is in the federal Parliament," she said. "It's not a vote of the people, it's a vote of the Parliament."

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