By Lyle Shelton, ACL Managing Director
The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd went out of his way last night to push same-sex marriage to the forefront of the election campaign.
After one hour debating Tony Abbott on issues such as the economy, asylum seekers, aged care, climate change and Sydney’s airport, the final question from moderator David Speers of Sky News was on same-sex marriage.
Mr Rudd obviously saw it coming and had an announcement – the only one of the night – ready to go. (This story
foreshadowing the announcement was posted on the Herald Sun’s website an hour-and-half before the debate kicked off).
If re-elected Mr Rudd promised yet another vote on the issue within 100 days. Same-sex marriage was defeated by a margin of almost two to one less than a year ago.
Such has been the relentless pressure from gay lobbyists, supported by large sections of the media, a rare second chance is to be granted if Labor wins.
On the ground in voter land, most parliamentarians will freely say it is a very low order.
It is ironic that Mr Rudd went to church this morning and then by evening was re-committing himself to public policy on marriage that is against the teaching of every major Christian church in the country.
After years of wooing Christian voters and campaigning against same-sex marriage, Mr Rudd’s May backflip on the issue was a big blow and a betrayal of the constituency.
Mr Abbott last night observed that there were many other important issues and reiterated that any Coalition conscience vote would be a matter for the party room after the election.
He is personally against same-sex marriage, despite his warm acknowledgement of his lesbian sister, Christine, who was in the National Press Club audience last night.
Coalition policy is to oppose same-sex marriage while ALP policy supports it.
However, ALP MPs and Senators are allowed a conscience vote. Coalition parliamentarians are not but this could change after the election.
Within seconds of the debate ending, Mr Rudd tweeted this to his 1.4 million followers:
Legislation for marriage equality within 100 days of the election with full conscience vote. I believe this is the right thing to do. KRudd
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/KRuddMP/status/366497867143200768
Within 25 minutes this email had been sent to ALP supporters:
From: Kevin Rudd
Date: 11 August 2013 7:54:53 PM AEST
Subject: It's Time:
If I am re-elected Prime Minister, I will support marriage equality legislation in the first 100 days of Parliament.
At this evening’s debate, I made that commitment to the Australian people.
If you think it’s time for marriage equality, I’d like you to stand with me and show the country that we think it's time:
I've been thinking about the meaning of marriage for a long time - and I won't hide the fact that this has been a journey for me. It is a difficult discussion, and I won't force this on anyone. It will be a free vote for members of the Labor Party.
But here is what I know: we are at our best when we give all Australians the same dignity, the same opportunity for happiness.
I believe that no matter who we love, we all should be able to make that same promise I was able to make to Therese over 30 years ago. That all of us should be allowed to marry the one we love.
I am the first Prime Minister of this country going into an election promising to support marriage equality. So if you support equal marriage, I will need your support.
This is an issue that is very personal to people. What moves us to take a stand on this issue can move others too. If you think it's time for marriage equality, share your story telling the country why.
Despite the media support of it over the past two years, same-sex marriage has remained a fringe issue in the minds of politicians and, according most of them, the public’s also.
Despite promising not to campaign for same-sex marriage, Mr Rudd last night brought it right into the centre of the election campaign.
Please consider contacting the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to share your concern via email Kevin.email@example.com
or tweeting him @KRuddMP. Please consider contacting Opposition Leader Tony Abbott Tony.Abbott.MP@aph.gov.au
or @TonyAbbottMHR to thank him for focusing on other important issues.
On Sunday night, I spoke to 2CH radio's Dominic Steele about the upcoming federal election. Listen to the interview here