SOUTH Australian Greens Senator Robert Simms yesterday called out former Prime Minister Tony Abbott for speaking to US anti-gay group the Alliance Defending Freedom.

In a speech to the Senate last night, the Greens’ spokesperson for marriage equality called Abbott’s speech “a brazen slap in the face to LGBTI Australians and their loved ones”.

The former PM last week flew to the US to address the alliance at an event designed to influence UN policy makers and diplomats.

The Republican-aligned group, which also seeks to limit access to abortion services, litigates on behalf of opponents of marriage equality.

In 2013 the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which tracks hate groups in the US, reported the alliance has a budget of over “$USD30 million ($AUD43 million), a staff of 44 in-house lawyers and 2200 allied lawyers”.

Simms told the Senate last night the alliance is a “hate group” that “seeks to strong arm the judiciary in the US so that it can restrict the human rights of women and LGBTI people”.

He added that as a former PM, Abbott is an ambassador for Australia and “should think very carefully about the causes with which he associates”.

“By sharing the rostrum with these bigots and homophobes, Mr Abbott is legitimising their hateful agenda,” Simms said.

“Legitimising hate speech that ruins people’s lives.”

In his speech to the alliance, Abbott argued “we can’t be indifferent to the erosion of the family given its consequences for the wider community”.

However, he also said a plebiscite on marriage equality was “the best way to decide something that’s so important but so personal: it’s to let the people decide so that the decision, whichever way it goes, will have their authority”.

Abbott’s sister Christine Forster – an out lesbian and City of Sydney Liberal councillor – disagreed with Abbott’s position in a piece for Mamamia last night.

“Exactly how does it ‘erode’ or ‘damage’ the marriages and/or families of heterosexual Australians if their gay neighbours are able to exercise the right to marry before the law?” she wrote.

“There is no evidence that I’ve heard of that there has been any impact on marriages between men and women in Canada, the UK, New Zealand or the US as a result of those jurisdictions legalising same-sex marriage.”

Her piece came just days after she publicly disagreed with her brother on the issue via Twitter.

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