The Rudd Government’s representative at last week’s anti-gay marriage breakfast, Senator Ursula Stephens, has been caught rewriting history after the event became embroiled in controversy and an alleged assault.
Senator Bill Heffernan has also been forced to clarify comments attributed to him, again linking gay men with pedophilia and condemning gay sex.
Stephens, who is Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion, was addressing the breakfast when two marriage equality protesters held up signs saying -˜inclusion = equality’.
Stephens’ office published an edited version of her speech online, without an off-the-cuff nod to anti-gay lobbying at the ALP National Conference. The online version instead added an extract from the Government’s official position on same-sex couples.
In front of the Christian audience, Stephens failed to say, -œThe Australian Government believes that people are entitled to respect, dignity and the opportunity to participate in society and receive the protection of the law regardless of their sexuality or marital status.
Some gay websites were fooled into publishing the line as a record of the event’s tolerance.
The 500-strong breakfast in Parliament’s Great Hall was organised by a coalition of Christian values organisations to celebrate the gay ban and seek Government approval for August 13 to be officially named National Marriage Day. The audience had been cheering at the removal of the gay protesters, John Kloprogge and John Davey, just as Stephens was about to discuss the Government’s position on marriage as between a man and woman and its positive influence on raising children.
An organiser grabbed the protesters and pushed them away. There was a short scuffle between Davey and the organiser, during which it appeared the man had his hands wrapped around Davey’s neck.
Senator Heffernan, who was in the audience, escorted Davey outside. Davey has filed an assault complaint with police but no charges have been laid.
Parliament security officers stood around Kloprogge, preventing him from re-entering the breakfast, which the protesters had tickets for.
Outside Parliament, Heffernan confronted Kloprogge, took his breakfast name badge and asked if he was underage.
-œHow old are you? What age are you? Are you sure? he asked the 25-year-old. He started debating with Kloprogge before moving them away from the cameras and this reporter.
The senator has denied saying, -œThe anus is for shitting, not for fucking and -œI don’t mind gay people, I just want you to stop fucking the kids. He maintained that despite his reputation for raising male pedophile cases, he was not trying to link gay people to pedophilia.
He said he didn’t want to provide further comment on that matter to the Star.
Heffernan’s sister, Mary-Louise Fowler from the Australian Family Association, was the chief organiser of the breakfast. She produced a petition with 13,000 signatures calling for August 13 to be dedicated as National Marriage Day.
Small Business Minister Dr Craig Emerson and Coalition senators Ron Boswell and Guy Barnett were on hand to support and accept the petition.
Barnett said the gay ban came about following a grassroots response during the Senate committee inquiry into same-sex marriage that received a record number of submissions in support of opposite-sex marriage.
-œIt was a joyous occasion when the announcement was made by the Labor Party to support the Howard Government on that marriage amendment, he said.
Senator Stephens, representing the Government, said many in the audience had lobbied her before the ALP conference to protect marriage as defined in that amendment.
Outside parliament a small group of gay protesters decried the breakfast as homophobic and a hate rally.

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