Culture

Julia Gillard’s Just Come Out In Support For Marriage Equality, Which Is A Bit Bloody Late Isn’t It

Could've said so a bit earlier, maybe. Whatever, it's not important.

Gee, today is just one big reason for LGBTI people and their supporters to bash their heads against the wall in frustration, isn’t it. Giving the Michael Kirby Lecture at Melbourne’s College of Law and Justice earlier today, former Prime Minister and longtime opponent of marriage equality Julia Gillard has magically done an about-turn and announced she’s seen the light on the issue, which would be bloody wonderful if it had happened three years ago when she was in a position to do something about it.

Speaking on the prospect of a plebiscite or referendum on marriage equality, which was floated by Prime Minister Tony Abbott a few weeks ago, Gillard said the following:

“To be frank, the nature of Australia’s contemporary debate on same sex marriage has caused me to re-examine some fundamental assumptions I have held about this debate. As many of you in this room are aware, I voted against same sex marriage when changes came before the Federal Parliament. I ensured my political party had a conscience vote and I did not seek to influence the vote of anyone within my political party on the legislation itself.

I am aware that this vote by me was viewed as odd by many given what theyknow of my broader values. I am keenly aware my position was idiosyncratic.One of my staff members summarised it as that of a 1970s feminist. Given the 1970s feminist in me saw much to be concerned with from a gender perspective with traditional marriage, I thought the better approach was not to change the old but to create something new through civil unions.

“However, in the years since, the debate has quickly moved on, and the claim for civil unions has been discarded in favour of a campaign for same sex marriage. In my time post politics as key countries have moved to embrace same sex marriage, I have identified that my preferred reform direction was most assuredly not winning hearts and minds.

“In fact, I assumed what would likely happen next was that the Liberal Party would move to a conscience vote on same sex marriage and, inevitably at some point, the parliament would vote to amend the Marriage Act to allow for same sex marriages.Being outside the Parliament, I would not have a vote in this process. After the vote was successfully taken my position would have been overtaken by history, something which would have caused me no heart burn.

“Now, given the discussion of a plebiscite or a referendum, I find myself in a world where these assumptions have been upended. As you know from my earlier remarks, I think it is vital that the proposal for a plebiscite or referendum is put to one side. 

“I also think it is important that the matter is now resolved through a conscience vote by the parliament as promptly as possible after the next election so that no more potential twists and turns can loom up. Of course, like everyone else in this room except [MP] Michael Danby, I would not have a vote in that debate. But if I did, I would vote yes.”

On one hand, this is a good thing — prominent public figure changes heart on marriage equality, outlines their reasons, says it’d be a good thing for the country, yada yada. On the other, much larger hand, this is the same Julia Gillard who was a Prime Minister-sized roadblock to marriage equality legalisation efforts for the entire time she held office, and who seemingly never bothered to have this little thought bubble while she could’ve done something about it. To put it delicately, people have noted the irony.

Welcome to the club, Julia! Took you slightly longer than long enough.