Speaking to Fairfax Media, ACT Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who is an openly gay Labor Parliamentarian, urged Rudd and Labor to campaign on legalising same-sex marriage as a “point of difference” against Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, arguing that doing so will “lift Labor’s primary vote”.
“I very strongly encourage him to make this part of his campaign to re-engage with young Australians in particular. I certainly think it will assist the Labor Party in winning more support from LGBTI Australians and their families and friends. It’s a big constituency, and could well be the difference in terms of winning a number of seats in the Lower House,” Barr said.
South Australian Greens Senator and marriage equality spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young also called on Rudd to make legalising gay marriage a top priority, saying he would make it a matter of Cabinet urgency “if he really cares”.
“We don’t need a referendum to bring about marriage equality. What we need is for parliament to get on with the job of representing the Australian people, the vast majority of whom want to see an end to discrimination,” Hanson-Young said.
In a press conference this afternoon Rudd highlighted the fact that he was “the first Prime Minister of Australia to be a fully signed-up supporter of marriage equality” and challenged Abbott to allow Coalition MPs a conscience vote whatever the outcome of the upcoming election.
Supporters of marriage equality in the federal Labor caucus have received a number of high-profile boosts following Rudd’s ascension to the Prime Ministership on Wednesday night. New Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has long pushed for change within the party, while new Leader in the Senate Penny Wong is openly gay. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan and Senate Leader Stephen Conroy all voted against marriage equality legislation in 2012.
A longtime opponent of same-sex marriage, Rudd publicly announced a change of heart in May with a lengthy post on his website, where he recounted his experiences with a gay staffer and discussions with his family as reasons for his newfound support.