Tony Abbott, the Opposition leader in Australia, has commended the bravery of his sister in publicly affirming her same-sex relationship, but has said that it will not shift his stance on equal marriage.

Christine Forster, Mr. Abbott’s sister, has publicly confirmed her relationship with Virginia Edwards, though it is understood that she informed her family of her sexuality four years ago.

“She has had some very difficult and complex issues to deal with and I really admire the way she’s handled it,” Mr Abbott said in a statement. “I think she’s handled it with courage and authenticity.”

The lesbian couple were first photographed together last July in Sidney at a function called ‘Lesbians in the (Opera) House.’ The decision to come out followed a lot of thought, and extensive family consultation, Ms Forster told an Australian magazine.

Her decision to come out followed a lot of thought and extensive consultation with her family, Ms Forster told the Weekend Australian Magazine. “I have decided to publicly confirm that I am gay and am in a committed, live-in relationship with Virginia,” she said.

Ms Forster, who was previously married and has children, also added that she has tried to change her brother’s mind during “spirited” debates during family gatherings.

Mr Abbott however said that his sister’s decision will not affect the Coalition’s policy on equal marriage. Speaking to the Sunday Herald Sun, he said: “We’ve had a lot of interesting discussions and we’ll keep those discussions going, but fundamentally I want to be a politician that keeps my commitments. We went into the election with a position and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the position we will keep.”

Alex Greenwich of the Australian Marriage Equality however hopes otherwise. “Advocacy from loved ones is by far the most effective way of changing hearts and minds,” he said in a statement.