FEDERAL ELECTION 2013: by Josh AlstinNews Weekly
Same-sex marriage now a priority for Rudd
, August 31, 2013
August 11 saw the first of the three debates between the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and Opposition leader Tony Abbott in the lead-up to the September 7 election.
It was essentially a fairly tame and stage-managed affair with questions from selected journalists focussing on the economy, education, climate change, etc. The issue of same-sex marriage was clearly not in the minds of the commentariat — that is until, at the very end, when the moderator, David Speers, himself raised the matter as the last question.
This seemed an unusual move. For a moderator to be asking questions during a debate suggested to some observers that there was some private agenda here, especially as Kevin Rudd’s response seemed to be very well rehearsed.
He told viewers: “My commitment to you… within a hundred days of a re-elected government, a bill would come forth… to legalise marriage equality.… Folk out there want this to happen.
“As a mark of decency to same-sex couples across the country who wish the same loving, caring relationship that, for example, I have had with Thérèse, my wife now for the last 32 years, and for that to be formalised.”
Media reports the next morning focused almost entirely on this last question, virtually rendering the rest of the debate a non-event.
A few years ago, Rudd presented himself as a relatively conservative church-going Christian. It was only while he was in the political wilderness during the time of the Gillard government that he had a public change of heart.
In May this year, Rudd penned an article entitled, “Church and State are able to have different positions on same-sex marriage”.
He wrote: “For me, this change in position has come about as a result of a lot of reflection, over a long period of time, including conversations with good people grappling with deep questions of life, sexuality and faith.”
He engaged in some self-deprecating humour to make his point. He said: “As most folks know, in our family I have long been regarded as the last of the Mohicans on this one. The kids have long thought I’m an unreconstructed dinosaur for not supporting marriage equality legislation.
“And Thérèse just looks at me with that slightly weary, slightly exasperated, slightly pitying ‘there, there darling, you’ll get over it one day’ sort of look, that wives can be particularly good at giving to their antediluvian husbands.”
He went on to discuss what for some time had been “the sole remaining obstacle in my mind on same-sex marriage — namely any unforeseen consequences for children who would be brought up by parents in a same-sex married relationship”.
He said: “The care, nurture and protection of children in loving relationships must be our fundamental concern. And this question cannot be clinically detached from questions of marriage — same-sex or opposite sex….
“One of the most comprehensive surveys of children raised in same-sex relationships is the US National Longitudinal Survey conducted since 1986 — 1992 (and still ongoing) on adolescents raised by same-sex partners.
“This survey, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Paediatrics in 2010, concluded that there were no Child Behaviour Checklist differences for these kids as against the rest of the country. There are a number of other research projects with similar conclusions as well….
Rudd reiterated that his change of view was “the product of extensive reflection on Christian teaching, the scientific data and the emerging reality in our communities where a growing number of same-sex couples are now asking for marriage equality in order to give public pledge to their private love and for each other, and to provide the sort of long-term relationship commitment that marriage can provide for the emotional stability important for the proper nurture of children”.
Potentially to undermine then Prime Minister Gillard, Rudd appeared before the media claiming that he now personally supported same-sex marriage while avowing not to campaign on the issue.
Fast-forward to the current election campaign, with Rudd neck-and-neck with Abbott in the polls. If readers needed any further confirmation of a Rudd government’s backing of the same-sex marriage agenda, consider that at 7:34 pm, shortly after the first election debate concluded, the official Labor Party Twitter account posted the following: “Join @KruddMP and Labor in supporting marriage equality.”
The ALP’s “Rainbow Labor” group’s website, as part of its message, recycled the 1972 Whitlam slogan, declaring: “Never before in Australian history has a Prime Minister stood for marriage equality for all Australians. It’s time.
Supporters of traditional marriage will justifiably now find it difficult to support Labor candidates who personally uphold the traditional view. Yes, they may still have a conscience vote; and, yes, it’s always best that the majority of MPs (regardless of which party) oppose same-sex marriage.
But what Rudd has done now makes the redefinition of marriage a political priority for any government he leads, which means that voter support, even for a traditionally-minded Labor candidate, may help Rudd form government.
Josh Alstin is South Australian state officer of the National Civic Council.