In 2012, Julia Gillard opposed same-sex marriage. Now she says she got it 'incredibly wrong'.

Julia Gillard is considered one of Australia's most prominent feminist leaders, renowned for her famous speech condemning Tony Abbott and misogyny.

She broke the barriers for many women entering politics and some (but not all) of her political decisions were focused on championing progressive issues. 

When it comes to the topic of legalising same-sex marriage, however, Gillard's legacy has been complicated, to say the least.

In 2012, during her time as Prime Minister of Australia, Gillard voted against a private member's bill that sought to legalise same-sex marriage. She opposed the idea, saying she believed in the "traditional" meaning of the union.

It was a position that was met with criticism from many who align with progressive politics, as well as the LGBTQIA+ community. As one commentator wrote for The Conversation, echoing the words used in her misogyny speech:

"As a gay man, I will not be lectured on discrimination by Julia Gillard."

This week, Gillard has opened up about her stance then, why it has changed, and – perhaps most importantly – why it's okay to acknowledge when you get something wrong.

Watch Julia Gillard on No Filter. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia. 

What was Julia Gillard's original stance on same-sex marriage?

In 2012, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted against legislation that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry – 98 MPs voted against and only 42 supported the bill.

At the time, many in the LGBTQIA+ community said it felt like "a slap in the face" to see Gillard's position on the matter, despite her otherwise quite mid-left-leaning politics.

In 2015, Gillard changed her stance, saying she would now vote for it in an upcoming vote. And in 2017, she did vote in favour of changing the law to allow same-sex marriage.

At the time she explained, "The nature of Australia's contemporary debate on same-sex marriage has caused me to re-examine some fundamental assumptions I have held.

"In my time post-politics, as key countries have moved to embrace same-sex marriage, I have identified that my preferred reform direction was most assuredly not winning hearts and minds."

Her reflections today.

This week, Gillard features on The ABC Of..., where host David Wenham explores Gillard's personal and professional evolution. Part of Wenham's conversation with Gillard is unpacking how she looks back on the vote — and why it's a good thing to take ownership of one's growth process. 

Gillard said her original decision to vote 'no' hadn't come down to her personal stance on LGBTQIA+ issues, but rather the relevance of marriage as an institution itself.


She said that she wanted a broader conversation about the role of marriage and the need for alternative, non-religious ways to legitimise relationships.

"As a feminist, I always wanted us to have a deeper debate about the role of marriage and I thought maybe this was the moment for the deeper debate. I got that wrong, you know, got it incredibly wrong and very happy to say that," she said on The ABC Of....

Julia Gillard speaking to David Wenham for The ABC Of... Image: ABC.


Interestingly, when Wenham asked Gillard whether she felt obliged to "play politics" when it came to her initial decision to vote no, she replied, "I wouldn't say 'obliged' but it was a political issue."

She continued, "As the campaign for change grew stronger and stronger, and it became clear that the only debate to be had was marriage equality, then I was very happy to support marriage equality."

Why there's power in admitting when you're wrong.

When it comes to conversations like these, often we don't get to see a perspective like this – when someone who once held a belief the majority deem to be discriminatory changes their mind.

Ultimately, there's power in learning and admitting when you're wrong. 

As the national director of Australian Marriage Equality said, "We welcome Julia Gillard's decision because it shows that even the most high-profile opponents of marriage equality can open their hearts to the reform."

We all have opinions – some of which we later realise don't reflect what we stand for now, as we grow, learn and evolve.

It's when we lean into personal growth and take the time to admit past wrongs that we show the most strength.

Feature Image: Getty.

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