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article imageAustralia: Rudd backs same-sex marriage as public opinion shifts

By Alex Guibord     May 23, 2013 in Politics
Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd announced he's reversed his hardline opposition to same-sex marriage and will now support it.
In a lengthy blog post published Monday night, Australia's 26th prime minister personally outlined why he flipped his stance on marriage equality.
"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," Mr. Rudd wrote.
He said many Australians in his Brisbane electorate of Griffith approached him about the issue over the past 12 months, including same-sex couples asking, ''why can't we get married?''
''It's been quite pervasive on the ground,'' Mr. Rudd said during a press conference in Brisbane on Tuesday. He explained his change of mind was also precipitated by many conversations with his family, friends, and – most recently – a former staffer who came out as gay.
"I believe the secular Australian state should be able to recognise same-sex marriage," Mr. Rudd said.
“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.”
Mr. Rudd, who is Anglican, meanwhile denied withholding his true beliefs about gay marriage while he was prime minister. He said his new position boils down to a matter of conscience after a "difficult personal journey''.
''As your view evolves and changes ... when it reaches conclusion that’s when you should put it in the public domain,'' he said.
Until now, Mr Rudd resolutely opposed marriage equality. As recently as September 2012, he voted against legalising same-sex marriage in a parliamentary vote, which lost 98-42.
In May 2008 on the ABC Q&A program – while prime minister – Mr. Rudd also said: “The Marriage Act in Australia is very explicit about it being between a man and a woman … that is the position of my party and that is the position I hold personally.”
But Mr. Rudd reiterated he had a genuine epiphany and the Australian public deserved to know his new position before further debate on the issue in parliament.
''If you can't be grown up enough in the Australian national political debate ... and reach an amended or changed position, then frankly you shouldn't be in national political life,'' he said.
Mr. Rudd attributed his flip-flop to Australia’s divorce rate among heterosexual couples and academic research showing children raised by same-sex parents are not developmentally disadvantaged.
"As someone who was raised for the most important part of his childhood by a single mum, I don't buy the argument that I was somehow developmentally challenged because I didn't happen to have a father,” he said.
''The loving nurture of children is a more complex business than that.''
Mr. Rudd also urged opposition leader Tony Abbott to give the Coalition a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, or Australia should consider holding a referendum to resolve the issue.
The latest Gallup poll found that a majority of Australians (53 per cent) think same-sex marriages should be recognized by law as valid with the same rights as traditional marriages.
Rudd has 'not given up'
The Coalition promptly questioned Mr. Rudd’s motivations for the announcement because it puts him at odds with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who still opposes same-sex marriage.
“Kevin Rudd is at it again,” said Liberal Senator George Brandis on Tuesday.
“It’s not about same-sex marriage … what it tells you is that Kevin Rudd has not given up,” he said.
But the former Labor leader, who refused to challenge Prime Minister Gillard in a failed leadership spill last March, said he would not seek a leadership role in the national debate about marriage equality.
Labor MPs accepted Mr. Rudd's about-face on same-sex marriage, while insisting his public statements were not devised to provoke another leadership spill.
"The Kevin thing is dead, there's no likelihood of Kevin returning," said one senior Rudd backer to News Limited Network.
Another senior Labor MP said Mr. Rudd's decision to push for same-sex marriages had more to do with getting re-elected in his Griffith seat – a seat he maintains with an 8.5 per cent margin as a backbencher.
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