In a radical demonstration of changing attitudes, the Western Australian branch of the National Party has voted in support of same-sex civil unions.

A motion supporting gay ‘marriage’ won the backing of delegates at their annual state conference.

The National Party are often portrayed as deeply rural and conservative, representing farming interests. Younger members of the party have hailed the move as indicative of their desire to question established prejudices and begin a ‘new era.’

Last week a federal Senator from the party said gay Australian Big Brother contestant David Graham would be welcome in the party.

State Nationals leader Brendon Grylls said his party would be making the same-sex marriage policy a manifesto commitment when Western Australians go to the polls to elect the state government in three years time, but that they would not be campaigning for partnerships before then.

Gay and Lesbian Equality WA convenor Rod Swift told the Sydney Star Observer: “There was only a very small fraction of the people in attendance who didn’t vote for this motion. We’re talking more than 80 percent support.

“[But] we’ve got to remember that this is the same party that decided before the 2005 state election to break their coalition with the Liberal Party to not support the Liberal Party’s rollback position on gay law reform.”

Activists have demanded that the incumbent Labour govenment in Western Australia begin a same-sex partnership registration scheme. The state already has some of the most liberal attitudes to gay and lesbian relationships.

Western Australia allows same-sex couples equal access to adoption procedures and in vitro fertilization treatment. It also gives same-sex couples the same rights as opposite sex couples in areas such as transfer of property, medical treatment, and inheritance upon the death of a partner.