Recent events have dealt the anti-gay movement in Australia an incredible setback.
At the start of November came Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull’s rebuke to Christian conservatives at an Australian Christian Lobby function, refusing to apologise for his pro-choice stance on abortion and support for gay equality short of marriage, If you discriminate-¦ against a gay couple-¦ do you really think that they’re going to say -˜oh well, that’s no good, we’ll go off and get married to a woman?’ , he told the gathered faithful.
Then came the passing of the Government’s equality reforms after just a year in office with little dissent from either party in either of the Houses of Parliament. To placate the Bible-thumpers, the Opposition stretched the process out by subjecting them to inquiry, but made clear from the outset they were going to pass them anyway.
And finally, over the weekend came the sacking of Fatherhood Foundation president Warwick Marsh as a government ambassador for men’s health over his extremist views on homosexuality published in the pamphlet 21 Reasons Why Gender Matters.
The views contained within, cobbled together from a range of American ex-gay publications and agenda-ridden studies by Christian psychologists, were so over the top they earned the re-
buke of Christian parlia-mentarians like Tony Abbott and PM Kevin Rudd himself.
At the image-conscious Australian Christian Lobby, reaction was swift, with all mention of the Gender Matters document removed from its website. CultureWatch’s Bill Muehlenberg and Saltshaker Peter Stokes, who both put their names to the pamphlet, claimed that discrimination against Christians is now acceptable in a Rudd-governed Australia.
Under the previous government, excuses would have been made and Marsh would have kept the position.
Hopefully this incident has been a wake-up call for both politicians and the media. For too long, Christian groups with extremist agendas have been giving themselves important-sounding names and passing themselves off as secular experts or lobbies on behalf of the wider community -” the Australian Family Association and FamilyVoice Australia being prime examples.
During the Howard years, these groups were allowed an increasing level of voice in determining government policy, with their fellow travellers effecting an almost complete takeover of the harm reduction side of the drug policy debate. At the same time, Howard farmed out an unprecedented level of social services to church-run private sector providers.
We can only hope we are now seeing the reversal of this process.
With religious views on homosexuality being sidelined in policy debates, the path to some form of national registered relationship recognition will be increasingly smooth.
With the Christian Democrats’ Gordon Moyes announcing his party is on the verge of collapse and Senator Steven Fielding unlikely to be re-elected, the anti-gay movement in Australia may just be on the fast train to political irrelevancy.