Prime Minister Julia Gillard takes a break from media appearances related to the budget at Parliament House Canberra last week. Photo: Andrew Meares
Julia Gillard doesn’t get away with much these days. Last week she managed to alienate Sydney’s entire North Shore when she questioned its residents’ qualifications as ‘‘real people’’. She weathered relentless Coalition attacks over her handling of MP Craig Thomson and his tricksy credit card use. And she copped it again from Germaine Greer over her jackets.
But during the blizzard of last week’s budget coverage, the Prime Minister got off way too lightly over one thing: her irrational stance on gay marriage. It came up when President Barack Obama announced his support for gay marriage, delivering a great coup to the cause. One rather amusing internet meme I saw had the Prez riding in on a white unicorn charger with rainbow-lasers beaming out of his hands.
Obama. Riding a unicorn. With rainbow lasers shooting from his hands.
The President’s stance was interesting because it has evolved over time, and he was very candid about the evolution.
At one point he said opposed gay marriage on account of his Christian faith but other times he has seemed open to it. In other words, Obama changed his mind.
He did this, according to an interview he did on American television, after looking at all the facts, chewing over the arguments, listening to different people, and observing the gay members of his staff who are in committed relationships.
It’s a rational and right thing to do, change your mind. It indicates intelligence and robust intellectualism, an open-ness to having your ideas challenged and a willingness to accept superior information when it comes to light.
Changing your mind is something our Prime Minister knows plenty about - she has infamously and spectacularly changed her mind on the desirability of carbon tax, and on MP Craig Thomson’s fitness to belong to the Labor party. To name but two issues. Sadly, on the issue of gay marriage, where rationality and public opinion would be firmly behind her were she to change her stance, she is stubborn.
‘‘I’ve made my mind up,’’ she told ABC radio on Thursday when asked about Obama’s gay marriage announcement. ‘‘My view’s not changing. I believe what I believe.’’ Ironically, one of the reasons Gillard has failed so spectacularly to connect with voters is that many suspect she lacks true belief in anything. Rightly or wrongly, voters seem to believe she makes decisions based on pragmatism and/or self-interest, not because she feels passionate about an issue, or because she has deeply-held principles she wants to transform into sound public policy.
Why can’t she change her mind on gay marriage? She is not religious, so her opposition doesn’t lie there. Beyond that, she’s stuck for a good rationale. Does she oppose it because she thinks it would ‘‘open the floodgates’’ to the legalisation of polygamy/pedophilia/marriage between frogs and humans? Does she think that marriage is a heterosexual-only institution because children are best brought into a heterosexual relationship? Doesn’t she want to protect the children whose parents are gay by allowing them the security of married parents?
The truth is there is no rational reason - as in, not a single one - to oppose gay marriage. None of the arguments against it stand up for a second against standard principles of logic and reason. The only people who can reasonably oppose it are religious folk like the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister, who is clearly very brainy, can’t come up with a good reason, which is why she falls back on her ‘‘belief’’ whenever she is asked to explain her position. And because so many people don’t think she has honestly-held beliefs on many things at all, it is very hard to understand her her position on gay marriage. It’s even harder to respect it.