For release: Sunday May 3, 2015

Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton said it was disappointing Labor Leader Bill Shorten’s tolerance of different views on marriage in Labor was today undermined by his spokesperson for families Jenny Macklin.

“It is sad that yet another senior Labor figure wants to expel her colleagues from the party rather than persuade them as to why the definition of marriage should be changed in law,” Mr Shelton said.

Ms Macklin’s elevation of “sexual preference” to the equivalent of racial and gender discrimination was also a disturbing development for the millions of Australians who will always wish to publicly uphold marriage as between one man and one woman, Mr Shelton said.

“The same-sex marriage political agenda is becoming more and more intolerant. Labor’s reputation as a party of tolerance is being diminished.”

Ms Macklin’s comments on ABC1’s Insiders program this morning prompted host Chris Uhlmann to make the obvious follow-up point:

Uhlmann – “You are arguing that a person who disagrees with you on this is the same as a racist, that they are a bigot.”

Macklin – “I am not calling anybody names.”

Uhlmann – “But that is the natural extension of what you are saying.”

Macklin – “I am not about to call anybody names. These are matters of principle. I understand that people have a different point of view.”

Earlier Uhlmann asked Ms Macklin whether or not she supported forcing Labor MP’s and Senators to vote to redefine marriage when the issue of a conscience vote comes up at Labor’s national conference in July.

“I don’t think Australians believe in inequality on the basis of race or gender and I don’t think we should do so on the basis of sexual preference,” Ms Macklin said.

“So that’s the principle and that’s why I think it should be a binding issue (on Labor Parliamentarians).”

Mr Shelton said that he was sure Ms Macklin was genuine in not wanting to be calling people names.

“I am sure Ms Macklin is genuine in her desire not to slur the millions of Australians who will always support marriage between one man and one woman.

“However, there is no escaping the cold hard logic of what she is saying. If ‘sexual preference’ is on the same level as race and gender then millions of Australians are no better than racists or bigots and should have no place in Australian society.

“Where do her comments leave Christian and Islamic schools who will always wish to teach children the truth about gender in marriage?

“Will those schools be teaching children the moral equivalent of racism?”

Mr Shelton said anti-discrimination law rightly contained no exemptions for racial discrimination but if ‘sexual preference’ was on the same level then churches and mosques would have to be forced to marry same-sex couples.

Churches were already being forced to marry same-sex couples in Denmark and legal pressure was mounting on churches in the UK and wedding chapels in the US.

Just as florists, photographers, cake makers and wedding chapel owners overseas were now being legally forced to violate their consciences and serve same-sex weddings, Ms Macklin’s comments mean Australian laws would also have to be changed to force compliance here.

Mr Shelton said Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen’s reversal of his support for man-woman marriage today would disappoint many in his electorate.

“I wonder if Mr Bowen has thought about the consequences of legislating a family structure which requires children to miss out on their mother or father?

“Both Ms Macklin’s and Mr Bowen’s comments demonstrate why Australia needs a more mature debate on redefining marriage.

“The threshold question is not equality for adults, it is whether or not it is right to intentionally deny a child their mother or father.

“The assumption is that so-called ‘marriage equality’ has no impact on children or the wider community who might have a different view,” Mr Shelton said.

“Legislating based on assumptions always has negative unintended consequences,” Mr Shelton said.