The federal Labor party has come under fire from gay activists after its leader Kim Beazley reiterated Labor’s opposition to gay marriage, telling a conservative Christian organisation on the weekend debates about removing discriminatory laws were often marginal.

Beazley also used an amicable speech to the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) in Canberra last Saturday to foreshadow strengthening [the ALP’s] dialogue with faith communities.

I know that nothing is more important to you than policies that support families in our community. There is much that governments can do to strengthen marriages and families, Beazley told the ACL.

We supported legislation that confirmed the Marriage Act of 1961 which said -˜marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others’, he said.

This protects the special status of marriage. And that won’t change.

Beazley said the ALP would continue to identify and remove areas of discrimination from other commonwealth laws.

But debates on issues like this are often marginal to the real pressures that families face every day in our society.

The Australian Christian Lobby has spoken out against gay law reform. It was a founding member of the National Marriage Coalition, host of the forum in Canberra last August at which shadow attorney-general Nicola Roxon pledged Labor’s support for a gay marriage ban.

With the opposition’s backing, the anti-gay marriage bill passed the Senate the following week.

Activists said Beazley’s address to the ACL demeaned the gay community.

LGBT people would have a right now to be sceptical of Labor’s credentials, national gay advocate Rodney Croome told Sydney Star Observer.

I think most ordinary Australians expect the Labor party to represent at least some of the aspirations of the LGBT community.

If its leader is willing to just dismiss our claims on justice as -˜marginal’ then that sends a message to the Australian public that we have no allies in positions of great power.

He has excluded our rights and he has excluded our families from his vision of what a Labor government would be most concerned with.

However, federal Labor MP for Sydney Tanya Plibersek told the Star concerns over Beazley’s speech were a side issue as the Howard government’s proposed industrial relations and anti-terrorism legislation loomed.

To get involved in a debate about what someone said to some group some time, that doesn’t affect anything that is happening to anyone today, I think is taking your eye off the ball, Plibersek said.

She said the industrial relations bill -“ introduced into parliament yesterday -“ appeared to roll back same-sex couples’ rights to carer’s leave.

As previously reported in the Star, the federal government would include same-sex partners in the definition of family members under proposed anti-terrorism laws.

If [the gay and lesbian community] doesn’t recognise this current threat as a real and present danger, then I think all is lost, Plibersek said.

Plibersek said she supported the promised audit of federal legislation but my first priority at the moment is this industrial relations legislation.

She also disputed Beazley had labelled the promised audit of federal legislation as marginal in his ACL speech.

I think that he’s saying to them that [the ACL’s] obsession with gay marriage is a marginal issue.

Kim Beazley was not available for comment before the Star went to press yesterday.

National Greens leader Senator Bob Brown told the Star Beazley’s speech meant Labor now offered no voting option for the gay and lesbian community and, Beazley is making it clear, nor will they in the future.

It’s an invitation to John Howard to take [legislative] discrimination further, Brown told the Star.

It says to the government, -˜You move further, we are going to move with you. We’re shadowing you here.’

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights co-convenor David Scamell called Beazley’s comments alarming.

I think it’s quite clear from his speech that Kim Beazley’s idea of what a family is explicitly excludes gay and lesbian families, and that’s really concerning, Scamell said.

Beazley’s choice of audience was as worrying as his speech, according to Rainbow Labor NSW convenor Peter FitzPatrick.

The ACL does not represent the views of ordinary Australian Christians, it is a far-right fringe group committed to attacking the rights of women and gay people, FitzPatrick said in a statement.

Kim should not be giving it any credibility.

His restatement of the existing ALP commitment to discrimination in marriage, while not saying anything new, was unnecessary and insulting to all Australians who believe in equality.

 

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