Media Release

For release: Monday May 23, 2011

The Government should distance itself from extreme comments by New South Wales Labor Senator Doug Cameron equating supporters of marriage to racists.

Australian Christian Lobby’s Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton said it was offensive to those who suffered racial discrimination in South Africa and a misrepresentation of the issue for Senator Cameron to be likening supporters of marriage between a man and a woman, such as Prime Minister Julia Gillard, to supporters of apartheid.

"It is inappropriate for a Senator to be using this type of rhetoric and insinuating a person is racist for affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman” he said.

“There is no comparison between apartheid and the same-sex marriage debate. It is completely inaccurate to suggest same-sex couples are suffering discrimination and mistreatment like black South Africans did under apartheid.

“In 2008, all legal discrimination was removed from same-sex couples in Commonwealth law and this is something ACL supported as an issue of justice for same-sex couples.

“Instead, Senator Cameron’s comment is an attempt to bully and intimidate marriage proponents out of the debate on same-sex marriage through equating them with racists. This should not be tolerated by the Labor Party, which claims to tolerate and respect the religious and cultural values of all Australians," he said.

Senator Cameron’s comment follows earlier comments this year by South Australian Labor MP Ian Hunter who said that a failure to support same-sex marriage was akin to supporting the racist White Australia Policy.

“People who support marriage between a man and a woman are not like racists nor are they homophobic or bigoted but they should be allowed to argue their position in the public square free of offensive slurs.

“ACL is worried about elements of the Labor Party intent on embracing Greens’ social policy which risks alienating mainstream voters.

It is appropriate to have a debate on same-sex marriage but it cannot be conducted in the atmosphere of intolerant rhetoric where emotive labels are too often used to suppress debate and intimidate people into silence," Mr Shelton said.