Australia’s Opposition leader Bill Shorten has said it is time for the country to change its ‘1950s’ definition of family, adding that ‘people’s relationships don’t need opinion polls from other people’.
Shorten strongly opposes the public referendum on marriage equality that has been promised by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull if he is re-elected. Whether this will go ahead is now in some doubt as the results of the election may produce a hung parliament.
Shorten opened up about his own experiences as a stepfather on ABC show Kitchen Cabinet this week, saying: ‘This 1950s definition of what constitutes a family, I don’t think that describes not just gay couples with kids but I don’t think it describes blended families.’
Gay marriage in Australia: relationships don’t need opinion polls
Shorten had been criticized for his anti-gay marriage referendum stance this week after it emerged he told an Australian Christian Lobby forum three years ago he was ‘completely relaxed’ about having such a referendum.
But when quizzed by Kitchen Cabinet host Annabel Crabb, he said he’d had a change of heart after becoming stepfather to his wife’s two children from a previous relationship.
Shorten is married to Chloe Bryce, with whom he had a child, Clementine, in 2009. He is also stepfather to Bryce’s son and daughter, Rupert and Georgette.
‘The experience of being a father, of being a stepfather, has opened my eyes that people’s relationships don’t need opinion polls from other people,’ he said.
‘One of the reasons why I support marriage equality is that same-sex-attracted couples who love each other and have kids, why should their kids somehow feel invalidated or that somehow their parents, their carers, that their relationships are any less valuable or wanted?’
‘Politicians should protect people from prejudice’
Speaking about the role of politicians in society, Shorten said it was their job to ensure people can live their lives without fear of prejudice. The inference is that holding a referendum on same-sex marriage only opens the door to prejudicial views being aired in public and aimed at gay parent families.
Shorten recently claimed he did not think Turnbull believed there should be a referendum either, and had only proposed it to placate conservative members of his party and shore up his position as prime minister.
The move has been likened to UK prime minister David Cameron’s European Union (EU) ‘Brexit’ referendum, which he used as a bargaining chip to remain prime minister during last year’s UK general election.
Cameron’s gamble backfired spectacularly when the UK voted to leave the EU last week, forcing his resignation. Cameron had campaigned to remain in the EU.
The ‘leave’ campaign in the UK has been criticized for legitimizing racist attitudes because it had focused on immigration issues. It is feared that Australia’s gay marriage referendum could do the same for anti-gay views.
Image: Facebook/Bill Shorten