In his first press conference since ousting Julia Gillard as Prime Minister and leader of the Labor Party, newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said this week he was “the first Prime Minister of Australia to be a full signed up supporter of marriage equality.”
Taking a dig at opposition leader Tony Abbott, Rudd challenged him to allow his party MPs a free vote on same-sex marriage, but acknowledged that it may be necessary to hold a national referendum, which has same-sex marriage equality advocates dismayed.
“Wherever I go in Australia, young people think that our current arrangements are just wrong,” Rudd said Thursday of marriage equality, referring to the likely blockage of legislation by Abbott’s party.
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“Whoever wins the next election, let’s just have the civility to open this to a conscience vote for all,” he said.
Rodney Croome, Executive Director of the advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality, said he’s pleased that Rudd “has re-confirmed his support for marriage equality,” but warned that the process of a referendum would be divisive and “unnecessarily expensive.”
Croome said that while he believed the majority of Australians would vote for marriage equality, he was concerned was about the process.
“It could potentially be deeply polarizing, becoming a platform for fear-mongering against the gay and lesbian community, and we think that our politicians are elected to make these kinds of decisions, rather than hand-balling them back to the voters,” Croome said, warning that a national referendum might prove to be divisive.
“It could be quite destructive, particularly for young, same-sex attracted people coming to terms with their sexuality. “They don’t need to see the kind of fear and hate campaigns that I feel would inevitably come out during a referendum.”