(PHOTO) REUTERS/Andrew Taylor
Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has pledged that he will push a gay marriage bill within the first 100 days of office if he is re-elected to the country's leadership position.
The Prime Minister made this promise at the first election debate against his rival prime minister candidate, Tony Abbott, on Friday in Melbourne. Although the purpose of the debate was to focus on the country's economy, Rudd took the last few minutes of the debate to announce that he would promise gay marriage legislation if he is re-elected.
Rudd, who changed his mind in support of gay marriage in May, said at the debate that he wishes to legalize same sex marriage in the country "as a mark of decency to same-sex couples across the country who wish the same loving, caring relationship that, for example, I have had with Therese my wife now for the last 32 years, and for that to be formalized."
Currently, same-sex civil partnerships are legal in the country, and gay couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples under law.
The country's prime minister, who claims that his daughter convinced him to accept same-sex marriage, has been criticized for his recent move in the debate, with some critics claiming the politician broke the rules of the debate by bringing pre-prepared notes regarding same-sex marriage. Rudd leads the country's Labor Party.
"It's what we have come to expect from Kevin Rudd, the rules never apply to him. We want the national Press Club to review this and take this matter up," Brian Loughnane, director of the federal Liberal party, which is considered to be moderately conservative, told Guardian Australia.
Rudd's opponent, Tony Abbott, federal leader of the Liberal party, has said that he does not support same-sex marriage, although he has a sister who is openly gay. Unlike Rudd, Abbott said at Saturday's debate that he prides himself on being consistent, and will continue to oppose the changing of the country's Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.
"I might as well be open and up front with people," Abbott said at the debate. "I support the existing definition, while my sister Chris has argued with me until she's blue in the face - and in fact she'll continue to argue with me on this."
Still, Rudd vowed at Saturday's debate that if he is re-elected to his office, he will give Labor party members the opportunity to have a free vote on the issue so that legislation can be forwarded to parliament. "Wherever I go in Australia, it just hits you in the face what young people think about this, which is that our current arrangements are just wrong and offensive to people," Rudd has previously said about his beliefs regarding gay marriage.
The prime minister has been criticized for his flip-flopping stance on the important issue, with Chris Meney, director of the Catholic Church's Life, Marriage and Family Centre in Sydney, previously telling News.com.au that it was disappointing to see Rudd walk away from such an important belief in traditional marriage.
"I think there's always a potential for people to be rather dismayed when a person has a particular view that's keeping with the timeless wisdom and understanding of an important social institution of marriage and then all of a sudden walks away from it," Meney said.