It’s official – Kevin Rudd has come to his senses, officially changing his stance on marriage equality. In a blog post on his site last night, the former prime minister wrote: “I have come to the conclusion that church and state can have different positions and practices on the question of same sex marriage. I believe the secular Australian state should be able to recognise same sex marriage.”
The reversal follows his vote against a marriage equality bill last year – he was one of 98 MPs who voted against the bill. The change, he says, is a result of “a lot of reflection” and “conversations with good people grappling with deep questions of life, sexuality and faith.”
It’s a move that will most likely make the controversial politician more popular with the people, but get him into strife with his party as he upstages Prime Minister Julia Gillard once again.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Mr Rudd is entitled to his change of mind.
But just in case you’re hoping Mr Rudd has started a trend, Mr Abbott has not changed his mind.
“I respect people who don’t share my traditional position on this. Each of us come to this position in a unique and personal way,” he said.
But there is hope – with Mr Abbott acknowledging he has had similar reversals on big issues such as paid parental leave and multiculturalism.
For Kevin Rudd, a conversation with an ex-staffer, who happens to be Pentecostal and gay, was the catalyst for his change of heart. The post offers an insight into the thought processes of Mr Rudd, as it examines various teachings in the Bible that in our modern context don’t make sense.
In Mr Rudd’s own words, “The definition of Christian ethics is subject to change, based on analysis of the historical context into which the biblical writers were speaking at the time, and separating historical context from timeless moral principles, such as the injunction to “love your neighbour as yourself”.
His post continues in typical Rudd-fashion: the arguments against marriage equality are teased out and he offers rational reasons why they don’t compute in 21st century, secular Australia.
One of the fundamental arguments against changing marriage legislation is the issue of children: will granting same-sex couples the right to marry mean we extend rights to them to adopt and raise children? In France this was the case, with President Francois Hollande signing into law a bill that legally allows same-sex couples to marry and adopt children just this week.
Mr Rudd identifies that there are many children being raised by same-sex parents already, the scientific evidence acknowledges that same-sex families do not compromise children’s development and that Commonwealth legislation already recognises the legal rights of children being brought up in same-sex relationships under the terms of Australian family law.
He asks: “Therefore, the question arises that given the state has already recognised and facilitated children being raised in same sex relationships, why do we not afford such relationships the potential emotional and practical stability offered by the possibility of civil marriage? ”
The conclusion Mr Rudd draws is a pretty simple one: the Church and the State should be separate and therefore the two should be able to have separate definitions of marriage.
“Further, under no circumstances should marriage equality legislation place any legal requirement on the church or other religious institutions to conduct same sex marriages. The churches should be explicitly exempt. If we truly believe in a separation of church and state, then the church must be absolutely free to conduct marriage ceremonies between a man and a woman only, given the nature of their current established theological and doctrinal positions on the matter. This should be exclusively a matter for the church, the mosque and the synagogue. It is, however, a different matter for a secular state. The Church must be free to perform marriages for Christian heterosexual couples without any threat of interference from the state. Just as the state should be free to perform marriage services for both heterosexual and same sex couples, and whether these couples are of a religious faith or no religious faith. “
Mr Rudd acknowledges that the Labor Party currently has a conscience vote on this issue, and says the Liberals and the Nationals must follow suit. He argues that if this doesn’t happen a “national referendum” may be required.
“I think any observer would say there’s an underlying trend as members of parliament give it more consideration and listen to the arguments to legalising same-sex marriage,” Senator Carr told ABC radio on Tuesday.
He also acknowledged there was “considerable support” for legalising same-sex marriage among coalition MPs.
To wrap things up, Mr Rudd had to acknowledge how the media and other politicians are going to react: is this going to mean another bid for the leadership?
“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.”
While his change of heart will still be examined as suspicious by many of his fellow politicians and political analysts, I welcome the change, and congratulate Mr Rudd for being a big enough person to acknowledge he was wrong. We continue to look forward to the time when other politicians – namely Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott – do the same and when we can offer “a more dignified and non-discriminatory future for all.”
To read Kevin Rudd’s post, visit his website.