Marriage equality is one among the priority issues in this year’s federal election scheduled on Sept. 7.

Prime Minister and Australian Labor Party (ALP) leader Kevin Rudd promised that a re-elected government under Labor will put forward a bill that will legalise marriage equality within 100 days. The declaration was made during a debate with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott at the National Press Club in Canberra last Sunday.

PM Kevin Rudd (top right) and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (left) up for Sept federal poll.

The ALP has already launched a signature campaign, It’s time: Marriage Equality, to gather support. The party says Rudd needs a strong public endorsement to make what he has promised possible. The signature campaign is up and running with more than 7,000 supporters (as of press time) and counting.

Australian Marriage Equality, an advocacy group at the forefront of the issue, said marriage equality is of urgent concern among young voters. Showing a recent poll conducted by the Australian Institute, the group said the poll indicates that young voters see marriage equality as a “signature issue” that will strongly influence who they vote for. The group also warned that failure of Abbott or the Coalition MPs to make a conscience vote will not get the votes of young people.

The message to candidates is that support for marriage equality is the way to attract young voters….In particular, the message to Tony Abbott and the Coalition is that failure to allow Coalition MPs a conscience vote on marriage equality is driving away young voters.

Abbott, known for his conservative views on gays and lesbians, softened his stance during Sunday’s debate. The opposition leader announced he is supporting gay and lesbian rights.

Abbott, a former Catholic seminarian, has been vilified by his detractors as sexist and homophobic.

However, today he is under fire from various groups after a radio interview in which he said he would not be swayed on “fashion of the moment” issues.

This reinforces his old homophobic view. A few months ago Abbott gave an interview to News Limited Network in which admitted he would not allow a conscience vote on gay marriage while LP’s consistent position was against it.  “Coalition party policy is that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he was quoted as saying.

In a separate interview in 2010, Abbott was asked about his views on homosexuality in which he said, “I probably feel a bit threatened, as so many people do. It’s a fact of life.” He told ABC TV, “There is no doubt that (homosexuality) challenges, if you like, orthodox notions of the right order of things.”

The recent debate then questions Abbott’s sincerity on his election promises.

Rudd said church can keep its tradition, while gays and lesbians will find their way into the system.

Upcoming rallies to support marriage equality (Photo: Gay Marriage Rights in Australia)

The Greens have been supporting GLBTI rights issues (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex individuals). Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Adam Bandt have bills before Parliament that seek to remove discrimination from the Marriage Act and give same-sex couples the right to marry. The bills, however, have faced tremendous challenge before the conservative majority.

The Greens’ LGBTI spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said if Kevin Rudd is genuine about marriage equality, he will need to work across the Parliament and convince all parties from across the political spectrum to work together to achieve marriage equality.

In a party statement, the Greens claims they have led the way on marriage equality and have long been ready and willing to work with all parties to achieve it. “The Greens plan for a bill to be cosponsored by members of all three parties is the only way to overcome the political impasse and actually achieve equality,” the party said.