A very interesting cat’s been let out of the bag overnight, as former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – who, to be clear, last time we checked, has no plans to contest the Labor Party leadership – published a blog post voicing his support for same-sex marriage rights.
“I have come to the conclusion that church and state can have different positions and practices on the question of same sex marriage.” writes Mr Rudd.
“I believe the secular Australian state should be able to recognise same sex marriage. I also believe that this change should legally exempt religious institutions from any requirement to change their historic position and practice that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. 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.”
The timing of Rudd’s declaration seems… quite coincidental considering the pending federal election and the low approval ratings for current PM, Julia Gillard, that strongly indicate Labor’s time in power – or at least Ms Gillard’s – is almost certainly coming to an end. It is inevitable that Mr Rudd’s motivation for doing this, and particularly for doing it now is going to be called into question.
Not surprisingly, Rudd preemptively addresses this in his blog post. He writes, “Some will ask why I am saying all this now. For me, this issue has been a difficult personal journey, as I have read much, and talked now with many people, and of late for the first time in a long time I have had the time to do both. I have long resisted going with the growing tide of public opinion just for the sake of it.
“Those who know me well know that I have tried in good conscience to deal with the ethical fundamentals of the issue and reach an ethical conclusion. My opponents both within and beyond the Labor Party, will read all sorts of political significances into this. That’s a matter for them. There is no such thing as perfect timing to go public on issues such as this.
“For the record, I will not be taking any leadership role on this issue nationally. My core interest is to be clear-cut about the change in my position locally on this highly controversial issue before the next election, so that my constituents are fully aware of my position when they next visit the ballot box. That, I believe, is the right thing to do.”
Time sure does fly in the fascinating and regularly face palm inducing world of Australian federal politics. It was over a year ago that Rudd contested the leadership, and only a few months ago in September 2012 that he voted against the gay marriage legislation introduced by fellow ALP backbencher Stephen Jones. But in the spirit of the glass half-full, the fact Mr Rudd has publicly changed his position on gay marriage is a positive step, and that he recognises religion and politics are entities that should be kept separate.
The marriage equality ‘issue’ is one that remains contentious in Australian politics – despite many other nations, including our Trans-Tasman brethren, legally recognising marriage for gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and intersex couples. Expect to hear a lot more on the topic as both the government and opposition rally toward election time.
Read Kevin Rudd’s full blog post here.
Photo by Scott Barbour via Getty