by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
When Australian voters go to the polls September 7, they will choose between a Labor Party whose leader, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, has endorsed marriage equality, and a coalition of center-right parties who oppose equal rights for Gay and Lesbian couples.
Rudd, who served as prime minister from 2007 to 2010 and resumed the post last June, was not always pro-equality, but he has committed his government to legalize same-sex marriage if Labor wins a new majority in Australia's parliament.
In March, Rudd re-captured the leadership of the Labor Party - and therefore the office of prime minister - by defeating his party rival, Julia Gillard, in a race for party leader. The Labor Party voted to add marriage equality to its platform in 2011, over Gillard's objections.
Coalition leader Tony Abbott, Rudd's current election rival, also opposes equality. The issue has become one of the central questions of the campaign.
On a September 2 TV broadcast, Rudd was challenged by a fundamentalist broadcaster to explain how, as a self-identified Christian, he could support same-sex marriages.
'Well, mate,' Rudd answered, 'if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition because St. Paul said in the New Testament, 'slaves be obedient to your masters,' and therefore we should all have fought for the Confederacy in the U.S. civil war.
'I mean, for goodness sake, the human condition and social conditions change. What is the central principle of the New Testament? It is one of universal love, loving your fellow man.'
Later in the program, Rudd added, 'I do not believe people choose their sexuality - they are Gay if they are born Gay.
'It is how people are built, and therefore the idea that this is somehow an abnormal condition is wrong & If you accept it is natural and normal to be Gay, then it follows from that & people should not be denied the opportunity for legal recognition ... of their relationship.'
LABOR CLOSES GAP
Before the March leadership election, Labor was trailing badly in opinion polls, but once Rudd became party leader, Labor's polling numbers rebounded, and now the election is considered a toss-up.
Marriage equality bills have been introduced in Australia's parliament in four previous years: 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2012. The 2009 version passed the lower house, but failed in the Senate. Gillard scuttled a vote on the 2012 version.
The Australian states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania currently allow same-sex civil partnerships with most of the rights of marriage. South Australia allows domestic partnership registrations. Western Australia and the Northern Territory recognize 'de facto' Gay and Lesbian partnerships with the same rights as cohabiting - but not married - opposite-sex couples.
In 2012, Australia's House of Representatives conducted an online poll to determine public support for two marriage equality bills then pending in Parliament. Out of 213,500 responses, 64.3% supported same-sex marriage.
A randomized Ipsos poll done in May this year showed 54% in favor of marriage equality and another 20% in favor of some form of same-sex relationship recognition.
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