Rudd’s doublespeak on marriage equality

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.

“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.”

Author: Drag0nista

Political columnist at The New Daily | Editor of Despatches & AusVotes 2019 | Author of On Merit, a book on the Liberals' *women problem*. Former Liberal staffer and industry lobbyist. Studying the entrails of federal politics since 1989.

20 thoughts on “Rudd’s doublespeak on marriage equality”

  1. Are you suggesting that governments should intervene in religious rites? That a government should tell a church who they must marry? I’m sure that’s not what you are really saying, because that would be… appalling, I guess.

    Rudd’s stated position is perfectly consistent, perfectly reasonable. Anyone two consenting adults can get married, but the government, of course, will not force any religious institution to perform any marriage that does not fall within that institution’s beliefs/policy.

    That is not playing both sides… that is simply a 100% straight-down-the-line statement of liberalism, of government non-interventionism.

    Or am I a little bit nuts?

    1. in that case, you are criticising Rudd for something, but I’m not certain what that something is. You say he is “playing both sides”, when he is merely advocating the obvious small-L liberal position, ie, everybody (eg, people deciding whether or not to get married, churches deciding whether or not to perform certain ceremonies) should be free to make their own choice.


      1. And as I also said, if he wants to truly support gay marriage he should show leadership by articulating the hope that the Church will move that way eventually too. There is no halfway house on equality.

        1. That seems a little starry-eyed to me. I would no more advocate that a Christian church should perform same-sex marriages than I would advocate that they stop believing that Jesus is the son of God. What would be the point? You can’t sensibly advocate that a church should violate its own beliefs … may as well ask it to quietly disband.

          Anyway, I’m being hyperbolic, but the point remains. A politician advocating that a church should violate its own beliefs is silly, hubristic, conceited. Arguing that a church should change its beliefs is strictly a matter of theology, not a matter that most politicians should feel qualified to discuss in a public forum.


        2. Your words “… hope that the Church will move that way eventually too. There is no halfway house on equality” strikes me as odd. Why should everyone approve of everyone else’s actions as a pre-condition for equality?

          I say this as someone who is transsexual. Not everyone approves me of my actions in dealing with my situation, whether out of a mistaken understanding of my situation or for other reasons. I don’t care about that, and ask only that I have the same rights in the secular sphere as everyone else.

          What I cannot bring myself to ask for is to insist that I suffer an inequality because some groups and organisations do not care to have me as a member and consequently use that to demand state invention, because that would be to inflict the same disrespect upon others that some people direct toward people like me. Similarly, I am fussy about my friends, and would object strongly to any suggestions that I should get on well with this person or that group and I would disregard any coercion efforts to force that upon me.

          Using your logic, are we to insist that men can join women’s gyms? Civil society is not a homogeneous paste, but rather the arrangements of many diverse people. We’re not all the same, and attempts to eradicate those differences and enforce mutual, unconditional love will backfire.

  2. Yes, I’m afraid I agree with the others. As far as religious institutions are concerned, I see them as private clubs with their own rules and if you don’t like the rules don’t join the club. Sure, as society changes, some more progressive religions will change with it, some won’t, market forces will determine there longevity, 🙂 And they are as free to commentary as you or I, and as long as their not forcing their rules on anyone outside their own religion, or breaking laws that govern the WHOLE of society (female genital mutilation as an example) then let freedom ring!

  3. Hmmm. Not with you on this one. The argument of Same sex marriage has always been about secular marriages, not those performed by any church etc. That is a battle to be fought within a church.

    And sure Carter is pushing for churches to allow female priests, but that is Jimmy 33 years after he stopped being a politician Carter.

    Were Rudd to pursue the line you advocate, the chances of same-sex marriage occurring would be nil – it would fire up the churches, and also serve to alienate those Christians who are ambivalent about the issue, because to them it is just a civil issue not a religious one

    And not only that it would make it a state v church issue, and (ahem) Christ that would set off a bunfight.

    Far better for him to not go anywhere near it.

    For what it’s worth, one of the very many things I hated during his time as PM was his doorstops outside his church on Sunday mornings.

    1. It may well be that those engaged in the debate on SSM, and informed observers, know that it is only about secular marriage. But I dont believe it is well known in the broader community beyond that group. And yes, it would kick off a hell of a debate if Rudd articulated a hope for Churches to one day conduct gay marriages. But is that a reason not to do it?

      1. “And no religion too…”?

        I’m a passionate believer in marriage equality, but I’m not the slightest bit bothered that churches disagree with my views. They come at the world from a completely alien metaphysical/ethical premise… I cannot argue with them, and would not wish to, nor would I wish any democratically-elected government to do so.

          1. Sorry, you have lost me. You are criticising the prime minister (the democratically-elected leader of a democratically-elected government) for his failure to take the marriage equality argument to the churches.

            My apologies… nuance is beyond me today.

      2. But you’re alleging duplicity. If that is the case then so too are 99% of all politicians who advocate same sex marriage. Show me some evidence that anyone senior in USA, UK, NZ, etc who advocates same-sex marriage who also is out there advocating churches do the same?

        1. It falls under the “etc”, but; Queen Margrethe II of Denmark’s government qualifies for advocating churches perform same sex marriages. On June 15 2012 the Folketing, at the instigation of the government, passed a law ordering the Church of Denmark (formally known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark) perform same-sex marriages. I think that mandating by law that a Church be required to perform same-sex marriages more than qualifies 😉

          Though, since it’s a state church, that could be seen as a bit apples and oranges.

          I have other examples of prominent advocates and community leaders advocating that churches recognise same-sex marriage, such as the Bishop of Stockholm and her wife, or Bishop Gene Robinson of the USA and his husband, but these aren’t politicians. If I look hard enough, I will probably find them in the UK though – with a focus on the Church of England 😉

  4. Bullshit. This is a Teabag job application.
    Kevin07 is running for PM, not Bishop of Capital city.
    What you vaguely suggest only guarantees `gridlock`.
    Kevin07 is separating State from Dog-botherers, as it should be.
    Folks that are not Dog-botherers, previously known as atheists, are pretty sick to death of hearing what teh-church thinks. These are the same pricks involved in child sex crimes, and cover-ups. When teh-church cleans its `own` act up, then the atheists might have some patience in hearing their `view`, but until then they should not be spouting to others, who they can marry, when they can suffer and die, tell women how to run their medical health, or other `personal-Liberty`s.

  5. ‘ ‘ ‘ Equality is equality. It can’t be trimmed with politically expedient caveats.’ ‘ ‘
    plenty of church-trimmed caveats tho, taxation loop-holes, non-prosecution of sex-crimes,

  6. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ that he “looks forward to the day when the Christian church reflects the views of the broader community and recognises same sex marriage.”’ ‘ ‘ ‘
    Why only `christian`.?
    Extreme cranks are not only christian, jewish and islam have fundy cranks too.?
    (probably others, hindu.?)

  7. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Much is made of Tony Abbott’s Catholicism and its potential influence on his political and policy decisions.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
    Mr-Rabbit has form, didn`t he meddle in womens health issues during Howard regime.?
    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ little is made of Rudd’s religious beliefs’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
    Has kevin07 got form.? Used sky-fairy to meddle.?

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