Gillard says a conscience vote should decide marriage equality
Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Prime Minister Julia Gillard took part in a digital interview via Google+ Hangout on the weekend.

Topics of conversation ranged from obesity to jobs, the economy, mental health and same-sex marriage.

Questions were submitted by the general public online at and then voted on to see which questions would be asked of the PM on the day.

Shane Bazzi, who topped the website with over 12,700  votes posed the following question regarding same-sex marriage to Ms Gillard:

“Prime Minister, poll after poll indicates that the overwhelming majority of Australian support same-sex marriage, including the House of Reps and Senate enquiry into marriage equality. While I acknowledge and appreciate the many Labor reforms removing discrimination of same-sex couples, we must not say to gay and lesbian Australians that ‘almost equal is good enough.’ Because almost equal is not good enough… So Prime Minister, my question to you: as the first female, atheist, unmarried Prime Minister of Australia, and leader of a self-described socially progressive party, how do you explain your opposition to same-sex marriage and ‘deeply held’ belief that same-sex couples should continue to be discriminated against by a piece of legislation (being the Marriage Act)? Why are heterosexual relationships more valued than same-sex relationships?”

The PM’s reply, which was streamed to over 21,000 viewers live, is printed below:

“Shane, I don’t think that heterosexual relationships are more valued than same-sex relationships. I think people who are in loving committed relationships – all of those relationships should be valued. I think my relationship should be valued, and I’m not married. So I don’t see the discriminator about whether a relationship is valued, whether or not a couple, heterosexual or same-sex, is married.

“I’ve got a view about the cultural status of marriage in our society, so it’s not about my view about valuing relationships, it’s my personal view about the cultural status of marriage in our society. You don’t agree with me – a lot of other people don’t agree with me. And you’ve pointed to opinion polls about all of this. But for me, politics isn’t about making decisions based on opinion polls, it’s about making decisions you feel are right. And we wouldn’t have done some of the big tough things we’ve done as a government if we just got out the opinion polls every morning.

“But this issue, it goes to some deeply personal questions – for some, deeply personal questions about their religious views; for some, deeply personal questions about what they want to do with their own lives. For you, it’s about presumably what you want to do in your own life, so these are very individual, personal perspectives on the world. To respond to that, what I’ve said is that there should be a conscience vote in Labor, so we will have a vote on changing the marriage act before the end of the year. It’ll come up through a Private Member’s Bill – that Bill is in the Parliament now, and Labor people will be able to vote any which way that they want to. And I suspect many will vote for change, some won’t vote for change. It would be good if we could just see everybody do that across the Parliament, going in and exercising their own personal choice about what they think should change in the Marriage Act.

“Certainly, I do understand community views are changing. Many community members will be in pretty deep dialogue right now with their local members of Parliament or with the Senators from their state about what they should do in that vote. And so I’d say to you, there are plenty of opportunities to make sure your voice continues to be heard as the Parliament moved towards that day of voting.”