Conservative Australia Is Giving Up The Fight On Marriage Equality
"The battle for same-sex marriage has been won."
As it becomes increasingly likely that marriage equality in Australia will be a reality by the end of the year, prominent conservatives who have either stayed silent or fought against the issue appear to be laying down their arms.
The issue of marriage equality has long laid dormant in the Australian parliament. But Sunday's stunning victory for marriage equality in Ireland appears to have lit a fire under our federal representatives.
This week Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young and opposition leader Bill Shorten both announced plans to introduce marriage equality bills to parliament. But it's on the conservative side of politics where the path to equality has been blocked - Until now.
As momentum builds the political right is quietly conceding defeat.
Prime minister Tony Abbott, the most conservative Australian PM in modern times, yesterday significantly altered his language on the issue.
Mr Abbott has always been an avowed opponent of same-sex marriage despite the fact that his sister is in a long-term same-sex relationship and is a prominent activist for marriage equality.
While Mr Abbott's opposition to the issue hasn't changed, he appeared to concede defeat in parliament yesterday.
Speaking in response to a marriage equality bill to be introduced by opposition leader Bill Shorten, Abbott said this is an issue that must be "owned by the parliament."
"If our Parliament were to make a big decision on a matter such as this, I want it to be owned by the Parliament, and not by any particular party," Mr Abbott said.
It's now been reported that the PM is likely to allow his MPs to vote with their conscience on any same-sex marriage bills - a move that will be crucial to reform passing.
The leading conservative voices in Australian media also appear to be have given up the fight.
Writing for News Corp on Thursday, Andrew Bolt, one of the most influential voices in conservative politics, said "the battle for same-sex marriage has been won."
"Relax. The public is already open to the change. In 2004, Newspoll showed only one-third of Australians backed same-sex marriage. In 2014, it was twice as many and I suspect support has grown since," he wrote.
Bolt said that now it's up to LGBT Australians to protect the institution that conservative Australia has fought so hard for.
"They must realise the awesome responsibility they'll soon share — the defence of our most important tradition: keeping parents together for the sake of their children," he wrote.
"They are about to change the definition of marriage and must now down their weapons and treat conservative warnings with respect, not with mockery and contempt."
Another opinion leader in conservative circles, shock jock Alan Jones yesterday came out in support of marriage equality.
Jones, who has avoided speaking publicly about his own personal life, yesterday ended a rant against Bill Shorten with a heartfelt message in support of reform.
"I've said it before, I don't understand the complexity of it ... we're not telling anyone what to believe," Jones said on his high-rating breakfast program.
"It is 2015. On this issue we must respect the view of others."
"The reality is this: in a very difficult world, which is often impersonal, uncaring, ruthless and sometimes brutal in personal relationships, love can prove elusive.
"And my view is that when people find love they should be able to celebrate it. And they shouldn't be discriminated against according to the nature of that love."
"To deny people the recognition for a relationship which is based on love is to deny in my opinion one of humankind's most basic, but as I said elusive, qualities."
Although less conservative than his counterparts, Melbourne radio's Neil Mitchell also spoke in support of reform this week.
Mitchell told his listeners on Monday that it's time for a conscience vote on the issue.
"We need a parliament that governs with an ear to the people and an eye to the future," he said.
"Ireland has not imploded, God hasn't stuck down the whole of Ireland.
"Gay marriage is not an obscenity. I'll tell you what is, child abuse is an obscenity, and the church has almost run a franchise operation on that over the years.
"Gay marriage. Australia should just do it. Allow a free vote in Parliament. Just do it," he told his listeners.
Even the Australian Christian Lobby, which has been at the forefront of the fight against marriage equality, appears to have conceded that the fight is over.
In a press release on Thursday, the ACL didn't urge parliamentarians to vote against reform, instead urging them to focus on the religious freedom and child protection aspects of any bill that may be presented to parliament.
"If the Australian Parliament is to again consider changing the definition of marriage, protections for freedom of conscience and the rights of children must be part of any legislation," the ACL said.
ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton expressed disappointment at the "apparent capitulation" in the Parliament to the same-sex political agenda.
"I say apparent capitulation because a proper debate about the consequences might cause parliamentarians to think again," Mr Shelton said.
"There are big consequences for children and freedom of conscience that flow from changing the definition of marriage."
It's not exactly a ringing endorsement of marriage equality, but it is a far-cry from their previous statements.
The PM's sister, Christine Forster, tells BuzzFeed News the change on the political right is a long-time coming.
"People have been working towards the outcome that we're going to have soon for some time, and it's been a process that's been going on largely behind closed doors," Ms Forster says.
"It was clear as soon as the Irish result came in that this would be a watershed. It told everybody that this change was inevitable. You can't hold this tide back, and that was clear from the time the Irish results started to come in. In the wash-up over the last few days, people have just come to terms with that."
A Liberal councillor herself, Forster says it's now time for her brother to allow a conscience vote, but it's unlikely the PM's personal views will change.
"People [in the Liberal party] have been working from within to get to a point where there is acceptance that there should be a conscience vote and that inevitably it's something that has to be decided upon."
"I don't think Tony will ever change his view that he believes the traditional definition of marriage between men and women is what marriage is about. And I don't expect him to change that view.
"But I think all conservatives have probably known for some time now that it is an inevitable reform. But It's only just now that they've come to the point of concluding that it's an inevitable reform that is going to happen sooner rather than later."
Of course, not all conservatives have given up the fight, and the battle for reform is not over.
But Ms Forster says her side of politics is slowly seeing the value of reform.
"There will always be a minority who will oppose it but I think the overriding sentiment in that sector of the community now is resignation."
"This is going to happen and it's going to happen sooner rather than later."