Australia's prime minister is continuing to push his support for same-sex marriage as re-election for his political position draws near, leading critics to suggest that he is using same-sex marriage as a bargaining chip for re-election.
During a televised Q&A session on Australia's ABC News channel on Monday, Australia's current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told Christian Pastor Matt Prater of New Hope Church in Brisbane that he changed his mind in support of same-sex marriage last May after "years of reflection in good Christian conscience."
"I just believe in what the Bible says and I'm just curious for you, Kevin, if you call yourself a Christian, why don't you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?" Prater asked Rudd, who responded by saying that he believes Christians should not become "obsessed" with a particular definition in the Gospel, arguing that the teaching of the New Testament is universal love.
Rudd also countered Prater's question by asking if the pastor personally believes homosexuality to be "abnormal." The pastor responded by saying he believes in the teaching of the Scripture.
Prater then said that he believes Rudd is "chopping and changing [his] beliefs just to get a popular vote." Rudd announced in May that he had changed his stance on same-sex marriage, saying that his daughter convinced him to change his mind on the issue.
The prime minister has been accused of flip-flopping on the issue of same-sex marriage in order to gain election votes; at a debate in August meant to focus on the economy, Rudd changed the subject to same-sex marriage, saying during the last few minutes of the debate that he promised to push a gay marriage bill to lawmakers within 100 days of his re-election. Meanwhile, his opponent, conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott, has come out in support of traditional marriage as being defined as a union between one man and one woman.
Abbott said in a Sydney radio station interview earlier August that he is opposed to redefining marriage to include gay couples and would not want to see a "radical change based on the fashion of the moment."
Chris Meney, director of the Catholic Church's Life, Marriage and Family Centre in Sydney, previously told News.com.au that he finds it disappointing that Rudd has flip-flopped on an issue that is so important to so many people: "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."
Along with being accused of using same-sex marriage as a bargaining chip during Monday's Q&A session, some critics also argued that Rudd was acting as a bully during his interaction with Pastor Prater when the prime minister personalized the argument, asking Prater if he personally believed homosexuality to be "abnormal."
"It's bullying, but it plays well to a whooping Q&A crowd who don't appreciate that Rudd and the targeted audience member were on the same side just 107 days ago," News Corp columnist Tim Blair wrote.
Australia's general election for prime minister is fast-approaching, with the vote taking place September 7. Most recent poll results show Rudd's Labor Party trailing eight points behind Abbott's Liberal-National opposition coalition.