The campaign for marriage equality in Australia is growing momentum and the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was challenged on the issue during an appearance on ABC’s Q&A programme. Gillard has previously stated that she is opposed to marriage equality in Australia. The Prime Minister was challenged on her stance by Geoff Thomas who’s son is gay.
“I am a Vietnam veteran, and a plumbing contractor and a proud father of a gay son. Almost two years ago I asked Tony Abbott on Q&A when he would start treating gay and lesbian Australians with dignity and respect. He hasn’t changed his view, but you have. The country now knows that you are as one with Tony Abbott and the extreme Australian Christian lobby on this issue. Could you please explain to me how in a country that prides itself on freedom, equality and tolerance how it is that denying same sex couples the right to marry is in any way in any sense fair, just or consistent with the way Australians think today?” – Geoff Thomas speaking on ABC’s Q&A
Ms Gillard is unmarried herself but in a relationship with Tim Mathierson and used her own experiences to try and explain why she felt not every relationship needed a marriage certificate to be recognised as loving.
“If you believe as I do that people can have deep and committed relationships without a marriage certificate, it becomes an issue about how are we going to deal with this cultural institution of long standing in Australian society? Are we going to try and change it to fit circumstances where people are in love and deeply committed but don’t fit the current Marriage Act, or are we going to grow up new traditions and norms that embrace that?” – Julia Gillard
Gillard added that she felt “very deeply” that marriage should not be opened up to gay couples. However, it was announced earlier this year that she would allow her Labour MP’s a free vote on the issue meaning they will not have to tow the party line. There is considerable support for gay marriage within the Labour party as a whole but its still unclear if any such vote was put before the Australian parliament whether it would pass or not.
After hearing Gillard’s response Mr. Thomas said that the Prime Minister had “abandoned the basic principle of treating every Australian as equal under the law. My son deserves to be treated equally under the law”. Due to the format of the programme Gillard was unable to respond to her challenger’s final words.