FEDERAL Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is being urged by gay rights groups to re-affirm the Labor Party’s support for same-sex marriage at an Australian Christian Lobby conference.

The ACL confirmed yesterday that Shorten would deliver the keynote speech at the ACL 2014 National Conference in October.

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome wants the ALP leader to use this opportunity to explain to the ACL why both he and his party support marriage equality.

“Bill Shorten should remind the ACL conference that, like the majority of Australians, including Australian Christians, he supports marriage equality, and explain why the reform matters,” Croome said in a media release.

“As someone who has voted to give equal recognition and protection to same-sex parents and their children, I’d also like to see him explain that love and not gender makes a family.”

Human Rights Law Centre advocacy director and Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Anna Brown shared Croome’s views.

“This is an opportunity for Mr Shorten to promote the benefits of diversity and equality,” she said.

“We would expect Mr Shorten to prosecute the ALP’s position on marriage equality as robustly as Kevin Rudd did prior to the federal election.”

Although critical of the ACL, Brown highlighted its previous support in removing past barriers to equality for same-sex couples.

However, she urged Liberal MPs to distance themselves from the World Congress of Families (WCF), which has a far more extreme anti-gay stance.

Last week, news emerged that Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark and Federal Minister for Social Services would address the WCF conference next month. The WCF is a controversial “pro-family” group from the US that actively campaigns against the decriminalisation of homosexuality and abortion laws.

“The presence of multiple Liberal MPs, including two senior ministers, at the World Congress of Families, without clearly distancing the Government from the WCF’s more extreme anti-gay, anti-abortion agenda, is a much more concerning proposition,” Brown said.

“While the ACL actively campaigns against certain gay rights, they have also supported reforms that removed discrimination against same-sex couples in Medicare, inheritances, superannuation and social security.”

The ACL has been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and LGBTI rights in general, and the group is urging its followers to make submissions to a Senate inquiry into the Greens’ proposal for foreign same-sex marriages to be recognised by Australian law.

ACL Managing Director, Lyle Shelton, released a statement last week that dismissed recent polls that showed an overwhelming majority of Australians now support marriage equality.

“The debate Australia has been having about changing the definition of marriage has been very shallow,” Shelton said.

“We need to be careful that we don’t get caught up in a popular culture wave that leaves our nation, and most importantly children, with unintended consequences.”

The poll by Crosby/Textor found that 72 per cent support legislation for same-sex marriages, and that 72 per cent want Coalition MPs to have a conscience vote on the issue.

Newspoll reinforced these findings with its own poll, which showed 68 per cent of Australians in favour of marriage equality.

In 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard was forced to cancel her appointment as keynote speaker at the ACL 2012 National Conference following uproar from the LGBTI community over comments made by then-leader Jim Wallace comparing the homosexual “lifestyle” to the hazardous effects of smoking.


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