In what has been described as an "extraordinary moment on TV" and "the answer of the century" in the media, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's strong response to an audience member – identified in the media as New Hope Church pastor Matt Prater – who challenged Rudd on his support of same-sex marriage, went viral overnight.
New Hope Church pastor Matt Prater (left) and
Australian PM Kevin Rudd on the ABC's Q & A show
Prater asked on the ABC's Q & A show which was televised on Monday night: "If you call yourself a Christian why don't you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?" He also quoted from the Bible a definition of marriage as a man leaving his father and mother to be united to his wife.
The PM and Labor Party leader responded by suggesting that line of thinking would also make slavery an acceptable proposition. "Well mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition," Rudd replied, to extended cheers and applause.
"St Paul said in the New Testament, 'Slaves be obedient to your masters'. "Therefore we should have all fought for the Confederacy in the US civil war? I mean for goodness sake, the human condition and social conditions change."
"What is the fundamental principle of the New Testament? It is one of universal love. Loving your fellow man.
"If we get obsessed of the definition of that through a form of sexuality, then I think we are missing the centrality of what the gospel – whether you call it a personal gospel, a social gospel or a spiritual gospel – is all about."
He said his decision to back gay marriage was made after "years of reflection in good Christian conscience".
"I do not believe people when they are born choose their sexuality. They are gay if they are born gay," he said.
"You don't decide at some later stage in life to be one thing or the other. It is how people are built. Therefore, the idea this is somehow an abnormal condition is just wrong. I don't get that. I think it is a completely ill-founded view."
Rudd said in May that he had reconsidered his opposition to same-sex marriage, and published an essay to explain his views. He had also promised to hold a Parliamentary vote on allowing gay couples to marry within 100 days if his center-left Labor Party wins the election.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says marriage is between a man and a woman and it would be up to his Liberal party to decide whether, unlike the last vote on the issue, Liberal MPs would allowed a conscience vote on the issue.