Tony Abbott explains why he didn’t vote on same-sex marriage plebiscite he invented
Australia’s former Prime Minister has had many strange opinions on same-sex marriage.
He spent years making apocalyptic predictions about marriage equality, before remarkably changing his mind on the issue when it became law.
Abbott was one of the most prominent opponents of same-sex marriage in Australia as the country voted on whether gay couples should be allowed to marry.
And he was the person who originally proposed a national ballot as a fudge to get around the marriage issue.
Despite all of this, when it came to voting on the result of the postal survey – which overwhelmingly backed equality – he was strangely absent.
The 60-year-old politician frustrated many by his failure to turn up and vote at the House of Representatives – particularly those in his constituency, which voted 75% in favour.
Explaining his absence, he told Sky News Australia: “I proposed the plebiscite, because I believed the proponents of change needed to be given their opportunity.
“I always thought those defenders of the traditional view of marriage as it had always been understood.
“As someone who put the plebiscite in place in the first place, I had to respect the result.
“So I couldn’t vote No. On the other hand as someone who has never supported same-sex marriage, I couldn’t vote Yes either.
“So I thought the honourable thing to do was to abstain.”
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) December 13, 2017
During the campaign the ex-leader encouraged people to vote No becaue “children should have both a mother and a father”, lashing out at “transgender marriage” and “radical gay sex education”.
Sinking to a low point in the campaign, he at one point suggested it would be “best” for his gay sister’s children to be raised by a straight couple.
But the politician, who just weeks ago told anti-LGBT lobbyists that their movement “should continue” beyond the vote, appeared to soften his tone after the result.
In a speech in Parliament, Abbott said he now believes equal marriage will “strengthen our social fabric” of Australia – just weeks after insisting it would “strain the social fabric” and undermine the traditional family.
He said: “The overwhelming support for same-sex marriage that the plebiscite showed is a sign of the warm acceptance that Australians have for gay people.
“There may indeed be a few homophobic individuals lurking amongst us, but no-one should ever again claim that Australia is a bigoted or intolerant country.
“As the plebiscite abundantly demonstrated, we are as easygoing as any country on Earth, and, whatever your race, your creed, your gender or your sexuality, to be an Australian is well and truly to have won the lottery of life.”
He continued: “If indeed same-sex marriage does turn out to mean that there are more stable and more lasting relationships in this country, gay as well as straight, then it will have strengthened our social fabric and become something that, once established, a conservative won’t just accept but will actually support.
“So gay people, their parents, their siblings, their children, their wider families and their friends should savour this success, and again I congratulate the ‘yes’ campaign for its victory.”
Mr Abbott added: “I believe that the passage of the bill, as amended, will enable our country to go forward together, united in decency and in respect for the rights of all.
“Now I certainly don’t pretend to be an overnight convert supporting same-sex marriage, but I am pledged to respect and to facilitate the verdict of the Australian people. Same-sex marriage should now be recognised.
“It will now be recognised. There should be a clear distinction between marriage as understood by the church and marriage as recognised by the state.
“On that basis, I am looking forward to attending the marriage of my sister, Christine, to her partner, Virginia, sometime early in the new year.”
Elsewhere in the campaign Abbott also suggested during the campaign that former PM Bob Hawke had gone senile, after he criticised the handling of equal marriage.