The recent conviction and sentencing of a Queensland man and his American-born, Australian-citizen partner for child sexual abuse has raised fears that their crimes will fuel anti-gay rhetoric from those sectors of society that link homosexuality with paedophilia.
Queenslander Peter Truong and his partner Mark J. Newton (pictured) were charged with the sexual abuse of an eight year-old boy, for whom they paid a Russian surrogate $8,000 in 2005, taking sole custody just five days after the infant’s birth.
In a case that has rocked Australia, the couple’s sordid abuse of the boy included years of sexual exploitation linked to an international syndicate known as the ‘Boy Lovers Network’. Newton was sentenced to 40 years in prison with Truong’s sentence yet to be announced.
It is sadly not uncommon for certain sectors of society to claim a ‘natural’ link between homosexuality and paedophilia, and two prominent members of the community are concerned about anti-gay fallout from the case.
National spokesperson for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Shelley Argent, is concerned that extreme religious groups will use these crimes to justify their attacks on LGBTI people.
“I think that some may try to use this story as ammunition, but realistically people will see the stupidity in what they are trying to do.” Argent told the Star Observer. “I think many people fear what they don’t understand, they feel safe hanging on to the myths and the bible feeds much of the hatred and fear, with people picking and choosing their passages.”
Dean of St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane, the Very Reverend Peter Catt who also heads the advocacy group A Progressive Christian Voice, is optimistic that more rational voices are gradually outnumbering messages of hatred.
“I think the tide is turning. Increasingly the general public have LGBTI friends and so the power of stereotypes are breaking down.” Catt told the Star Observer.
“So, for example, [Liberal National Party Senator] Cory Bernadi’s recent comments were seen as more ridiculous than accurate. I am quite hopeful that those who seek to inflame hatred on this issue are gaining less and less traction.”
Catt believes the voices purporting a ‘link’ between homosexuality and paedophilia are gradually fading away.
“I think it only persists for those who see fringe or ‘abnormal’ expressions of sexuality. I think increasingly that the mainstream view is that homosexuality is not outside ‘the norm’, so increasing the connection is breaking down.”
Catt believes there is a role for the broader church in drowning out the anti-gay messages that it may have once been partly responsible for.
“[There are] Two things. One, tell the stories of the real people who are members of our friends and families and remind people that most child sex abuse occurs in families.”