Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he’s changed his mind on same sex marriage, and now believes the federal parliament should legalise it.
Mr Rudd, who voted against the marriage equality bill last year, says Australia should be mature enough for the secular state to have its definition of marriage and religious institutions to have their own definitions.
He says the Coalition must allow a conscience vote on gay marriage when it comes before the parliament against on June 6, or allow the issue to be put at a referendum.
Amanda Cavill has the details.
Last September Mr Rudd was one of 98 federal MPs to vote against a marriage equality bill.
He says his change in position has come about as a result of a lot of reflection over a long period of time.
But he says any legal recognition for gay marriage should make religious institutions exempt from having to change their own practices.
Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt has another marriage equality bill before the House of Representatives and a vote on it is expected on June 6.
Adam Bandt says if Oppostion leader Tony Abbott was to allow a conscience vote, he’s certain same sex marriage would pass into law.
“This is the Liberal Party that says they don’t believe a government should have a role in regulating people’s private lives including what happens in the bedroom. We’ve seen Liberal MPs cross the floor this parliament on issues from refugees and single parents and it’s time for them to do the same on equal marriage. If Tony Abbott allows a conscience vote then I am confident that before the election it will be legal in Australia for people to marry the person they love.”
Mr Rudd says the coalition should allow a conscience vote on the matter in parliament, as the Labor Party does and if they continue to refuse a referendum on the issue should be considered.
“I don’t think that’s the proper way that this matter, which affects people deeply and personally and is complex ethically, let’s just grant that point. It’s not one where a party discipline should be imposed imposed. Every Member of Parliament should exercise their own conscience and be free to vote accordingly.”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she won’t be changing her mind about same sex marriage and voting for Mr Bandt’s bill.
But she says every member of the federal parliamentary Labor Party can vote with their consciences.
She’s challenged Mr Abbott to follow in the footsteps of conservative leaders such as John Key in New Zealand and British Prime Minister David Cameron and allow his MPs to have a conscience vote on the issue.
“When you look around the world and at those nations that have changed their laws and embraced same sex marriage, a hallmark of those nations has been that conservative leaders have given their members a conscience vote. So the step forward we need to see here is Mr Abbott does what I have already done for the Labor Party and that Mr Abbott gives his members a conscience vote.”
Opposition leader Tony Abbott says he respects Mr Rudd and the former Labor leader is entitled to change his mind.
However, Mr Abbott says he’s not prepared to consider giving a conscience vote to his party room until after the next election – notwithstanding the new vote on the issue in early June.
“The point I have made is: we took a particular policy into the last election. The policy we took into the last election is that we support the existing Marriage Act with the existing definition of marriage and my party room was strongly of the view that we were not going to say one thing before an election and do the opposite after an election.”
Some members of the opposition claim Mr Rudd has only announced a change in mind on the issue in a bid to gain a political advantage over his Liberal National Party rival for his Brisbane seat of Griffith, former Australian Medical Association president Bill Glasson.
But Mr Rudd insists he’s announced his change of heart because of the upcoming vote in parliament – not to score political points.
“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 the national political debate. If you expect every-one in national political life to have views frozen as of the moment they are elected to the House of Representatives to the day they are either booted out, retire or resign then frankly I think that’s an unrealistic and unhealthy expectation.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr says the parliamentary numbers may be shifting in support of legalising same-sex marriage.
But he says he’s not certain if that can be reflected in next month’s vote unless all parliamentarians can have an open say.
Last year’s vote on legalising same-sex was lost 98-42.