The ACL's Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton had an opinion piece published in The Drum
recently.Without passing or implying judgement on homosexuals, ACL has been the subject of a vitriolic backlash in the online and social media in the past week.Homophobe, bigot and f***ing idiot are some of the labels and titles of Facebook pages set up against ACL and our Queensland Director, 50-year-old grandmother Wendy Francis.
Over-sensitive homosexual activists and their uncivil friends on Twitter and Facebook are quick to jump from a great height with moral huffiness and personal abuse on anyone they perceive to step on their toes.Mainstream media quickly followed their lead and before we knew it politicians such as the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh joined in, also labelling us ‘homophobes’.So what led to us gaining this pariah status in the land of the fair go?ACL is a contributor to the long-running debate about the sexualisation of children and the well-acknowledged failures of the Advertising Standards Board and the classification system to protect children.And before joining ACL in January, Wendy was a campaigner on this in her own right, setting up a popular Facebook group calling for outdoor advertising to be G-rated.She represented ACL at a parliamentary inquiry in March into outdoor advertising.The systematic failure to protect children from inappropriate content has sparked no less than seven government, senate and parliamentary inquiries in the past three years - so great has the public pressure been for change. ACL has lodged submissions with every public inquiry on classification issues.Recognising the problem, the Gillard Government tasked the Australian Law Reform Commission with coming up with a new classification system for protecting children across all media, including billboard and outdoor advertising.So when a larger-than-life, in-your-face condom advertisement featuring two men in a provocative pose began eye-balling children in bus shelters as they waited to be picked up for school, Wendy swung into action as she has done in the past.She complained to the company, Adshel, and phoned a few friends who did the same. She didn’t activate the ACL data base or orchestrate a campaign because she didn’t need to. Adshel did the right thing and removed the ads overnight.Good job Adshel.Incensed at the success of this advocacy on behalf of children, homosexual activists started mobilising, as is their right in a democratic society.Seemingly not knowing of the long-running public and parliamentary concern about exposing children to inappropriate images in outdoor advertising, the homosexual activists cried ‘homophobia’ and some in the mainstream media jumped.Our campaign against the Rip and Roll condom bus shelter ads had nothing to do with the fact that it featured a homosexual couple.Our submission to the House of Representatives inquiry into outdoor advertising featured, among many images we submitted, a photograph we had taken of a heterosexual couple in a sexual pose advertising condoms.Before joining ACL, Wendy was successful in causing Adshel to remove a sexualised bus shelter ad for Twilight featuring two men apparently ravishing the neck of a vulnerable young woman.But after an impressive mobilisation of people on Facebook, Adshel reversed its decision and is putting the condom ads back in the faces of children.Rejoicing in his victory, one of the gay men featured in the ad, Michael O’Brien, told David Koch on Sunrise that ‘you are not seeing anything that is sexualised’.Not many parents would agree that an image of two people sharing an intimate moment while holding a condom with the words ‘Rip and Roll’ is not sexual. Fewer grandmothers would buy this.But with the activists crying ‘homophobia’, Adshel caved in.Does Michael think Adshel should also put the Twilight ads back up? Is the Government wasting its time with the ALRC review? Is there anything from which a civil society should protect children?Labels and slurs are being used too often to shut down legitimate debate.Yes it’s true that ACL does not support homosexual marriage, but neither do many Australians, including the Prime Minister. That doesn’t make us homophobic, bigoted or f***ing idiots.Recently Labor Senator Doug Cameron said anyone who did not support gay marriage had the moral equivalence of someone who supported the racist apartheid regime. Really?Does that mean those of us who do not believe marriage should be redefined don’t belong in modern Australia?Where has tolerance and freedom of speech gone?ACL is disappointed with the abuse directed at our organisation and our staff member Wendy Francis.ACL has a track record of supporting the removal of discrimination against same-sex couples and backed all of the Rudd government’s 85 law reforms in 2008 which delivered equality, not apartheid.But equality does not mean marriage should have to be redefined to suit an agenda that is intolerant of the cultural and even religious sensibilities of a great many Australians.Given our track record of tolerance, I suspect the abusive language levelled at us had more to do with our dissent to the gay political agenda to redefine marriage.But dissent is our right in a democracy. It does not make us bigots and it is time social policy debate was free of abuse and slurs.