Rudd’s doublespeak on marriage equality

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
George Orwell, Animal Farm

While the rest of the known universe was boggling at the audacity of Tony Abbott uttering the question that is on everyone’s minds but apparently must not be asked, I was struck by something different altogether.

During the Peoples’ Forum last night, Kevin Rudd said:

My view and a position I took some time ago was that to properly reflect what I think is the dignity belonging to all people, irrespective of their sexuality, Australia should now move towards laws for the secular state which support marriage equality… However, there are different views and certainly my view with the Christian church is the Christian church should be fully free into the future to conduct its own traditional marriage services relying upon the traditional definition of a marriage between a man and a woman…

It was the first time my attention had been drawn to the careful positioning of Rudd’s support for same sex marriage. It was the first time I realised his support was not unequivocal. He gives the churches a free pass.

Apparently this isn’t the first time Rudd has carefully draped this caveat around his Damascene conversion to marriage equality.

While Rudd’s original statement is no longer available on his personal website, it was reported as saying:

“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.”

It’s quite clever really. This positioning allows Rudd to present a modern, progressive face to some voters and a traditional, conservative face to another.

Clever indeed. See also duplicitous.

I’m not suggesting that Rudd, his government, or any other government should impose same sex marriage on churches. I support the separation of Church and State.

But it is the blurring of this line that is the problem.

Religion has hovered quietly over the recently-dissolved federal parliament, as it does over this election. Much is made of Tony Abbott’s Catholicism and its potential influence on his political and policy decisions.

Conversely, little is made of Rudd’s religious beliefs despite his weekly visits to church, which are ruthlessly exploited as photo-ops and force-fed to voters each Sunday night on the news.

Equality is equality. It can’t be trimmed with politically expedient caveats.

While there is no role for the State to force the Church to do anything, I believe there IS a role for politicians to support and promote the views of the broader community and – at times – encourage the Church to embrace these modern views.

Former US President Jimmy Carter’s recent intervention on the ordination of women is a good example. It has nothing to do with the State interfering in the Church’s business, but everything to do with a secular community leader encouraging a deeply conservative, patriarchal institution to also take a leadership role in promoting equality.

If Kevin Rudd was fair dinkum about same sex marriage, he would follow Carter’s example.

Muttering “marriage equality for everyone” out of one side of his mouth, but “not in a Church” out the other is the epitome of political doubletalk.

If Kevin Rudd truly believes in equality for gay people, it should be unconditional.

If Kevin Rudd truly believes in gay marriage he should stop playing both sides and instead state unequivocally that he “looks forward to the day when the Christian church reflects the views of the broader community and recognises same sex marriage.”