Remarks by Frankston MP Geoff Shaw comparing love between members of the same-sex to child molestation have been described as “utterly disgraceful” by the Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL).
Shaw’s comments were part of a written response to a local 20-year-old gay man who had emailed the Coalition MP objecting to his government’s plans to renew exemptions for religious organisations in the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act.
Representatives of Ted Baillieu’s government have today claimed the weekend media reports were a misinterpretation of Shaw’s beliefs.
University student Jakob Quilligan wrote to Shaw to argue that churches shouldn’t be able to impose their beliefs on others in non-religious/mainstream or secular settings because was concerned that he might one day have difficulty getting a job as a nurse or a paramedic if the organisation had a religious background. He asked that he be able to “love freely” without thinking that he can’t.
Shaw replied to his email by comparing Quilligan’s desires to that of a someone who wanted to abuse children.
“What if there was a convicted sex offender who stated that, or a child molester? Can they still do what they want? Under your statement the answer is yes.”
Shaw also argued that hospitals and welfare organisations like the Salvation Army and Red Cross had Christian backgrounds, and that most private schools were either Christian or Catholic.
“Are you wanting to put your values on these establishments just as you argue that you don’t want there [sic] values?” he said.
VGLRL co-convenor Sarah Rogan said there is a high probability Mr Shaw’s remarks come from fundamentalist ideology – the same ideology that has led to the attempted broadening of religious exemptions.
“We are stunned that in 2011, anyone can mention same-sex attraction and molestation in the same breath – and create distress for another human being,” she said.
Shaw is active in the Pentecostal church and raised eyebrows with his maiden speech to Parliament, in which he acknowledged “the original owner of the land on which we stand – God, the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible”.
The Premier’s office released a statement to Star Observer about Shaw’s email this afternoon; a government spokesman saying that impressions that were portrayed in the weekend’s media did not reflect the views of the Coalition Government.
“Geoff Shaw has sincerely apologised to Mr Quilligan for the offence he caused. The Government shares the same concerns as Mr Quilligan regarding higher rates of depression, anxiety, self harm and suicide attempts amongst young, same-sex attracted people,” the statement read.
Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown said he’d spoken with his colleague yesterday afternoon and that Shaw said weekend media reports of the email exchange did not reflect his views.
Shaw has so far refused to answer direct media inquiries regarding the comments.
Opposition leader Daniel Andrews said he was appalled by the “highly-offensive comments”.
“There is no place in our society for such bigotry,” he said.
“It’s concerning we are still yet to hear from Mr Baillieu. Anything less than a public condemnation from Mr Baillieu will not be good enough in the eyes of every fair-minded Victorian.”
The VGLRL is calling on MPs from all parties – and representatives from all religions – to condemn Shaw’s remarks and the proposed religious exemptions.