The Australian opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, has said he would still love his three children if they were gay, but as prime minister he would not change the law to allow gays to marry.

Earlier this month, the announcement that a general election will be held in Australia on 24th November prompted evangelical groups in the country to begin campaigning against gay equality.

Speaking on the Austereo network on Tuesday, Mr Rudd stood by his Labour party line that marriage is between a man and woman, but admitted it was not a popular view in some circles.

According to the Australian Associated Press (AAP), he said a Labour government would grant legal concessions to homosexuals, but not the legal status of marriage.

“On the institution of marriage itself, our view is between a man and woman and it’s just been our traditional, continuing view,” Mr Rudd said.

When asked if in the future this position would look as closed-minded as racist beliefs of the past, Mr Rudd said it was what he believed in.

“I accept that. You asked me a direct question, what do I believe in, what do I stand for, what’s my party’s policy, and I have to be up front with you and say that’s it, and there is a reason for it.”

Asked if he would change his mind if one of his three children were gay and wanted to marry, Mr Rudd said, “I would love them equally and that’s not the issue here, it’s just not.

“When it comes to respecting people in same-sex relationships I understand the absolute importance of that.”

Mr Rudd went on to say that there were practical problems with homosexual marriage, like inheritance law and social security entitlements.

“I don’t have a view at all that people in such relationship are in any way second-class citizens, at all,” he said.

Legal discrimination against same sex couples should be removed, he said.

Mr Rudd is viewed as almost certain to defeat incumbent John Howard and become Australia’s 26th Prime Minister.

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) have been putting pressure on Rudd to rule out legalising same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year the ACL hosted a webcast with Mr Howard and Mr Rudd streamed live to more than 700 churches across the country.

During the session, which was also broadcast on Australia’s ABC Local Radio, Mr Rudd was asked about his views on gay marriage by a Christian leader.

“I have a pretty basic view on this, as reflected in the position adopted by our party, and that is, that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he replied.

Under a Federal Labour Government, gay couples might be allowed to “register” their relationships.

However, Labour will support changes to the law to remove inequities in the tax and benefits system that discriminate against same-sex couples.

John Howard has been Prime Minister since 1996 and is seeking a fifth term in office.

The 68-year-old is a despised by many in Australia’s LGBT community.

In 2004 he passed federal legislation banning same-sex marriage and earlier this year said that HIV positive immigrants should not be allowed into the country.

He is widely expected to lose power to 50-year-old Mr Rudd and may even lose his own parliamentary seat.

“Australia is enjoying a remarkable level of national prosperity at the present time, but I believe very passionately that this country’s best years can lie ahead of us,” Mr Howard said earlier this month.

“This country does not need new leadership, it does not need old leadership, it needs the right leadership.”

Mr Rudd looks certain to sweep Labour into power for the first time since the defeat of Paul Keating eleven years ago.

He has led the party since December 2006, and recent revelations that he visited a strip club in New York while on official business did much to endear him to Australians who previously viewed him as grey and boring.

“As I travel around Australia people have asked me, legitimately, why do you want to become the Prime Minister of this country,” Mr Rudd said.

“I am putting myself forward to become Australia’s next Prime Minister because I understand the challenges which our country faces in the future and I want to be a leader of the Government of this country as we tackle those challenges of the future head on.

“Australia cannot afford another three years of a Government which has already had eleven years.

“A Government which has lost touch with working families, a Government that’s gone stale and a Government without fresh ideas for our nation’s future.

“I refuse to stand idly by and allow this to happen. That’s why I put myself forward for new leadership for our nation Australia’s future.”