13 November 2015

The Australian Christian Lobby today called for the Turnbull Government to urgently legislate to override anti-free speech provisions in state-based anti-discrimination laws so that free speech can be exercised in the marriage debate.

ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said it would be impossible to have a fair marriage plebiscite debate if one side is to be shut down under the threat of legal action.

The call comes as Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks ruled overnight that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has a case to answer for distributing a pamphlet entitled “Don’t Mess with Marriage”.

The complaint by transgender Greens political candidate Martine Delaney arose after the leader of Australian Marriage Equality, Rodney Croome, publicly urged people to complain about the church’s booklet.

The booklet simply teaches what millions of Australian Christians, Muslims and others believe to be the truth about marriage.

“The use of state-based anti-discrimination law to silence the church in Tasmania is a worrying development.

“AME and the Greens are using these laws to stop Australians from hearing respectful arguments in favour of preserving the definition of marriage.

“The Catholic Bishops’ booklet contains precisely the arguments pro man-woman marriage supporters want their fellow Australian’s to hear during the plebiscite debate.

“Unless there is protection for free speech, any victory for same-sex marriage in the Turnbull Government’s promised plebiscite will be tarnished and divisive of the Australian community.

“It is absolutely critical that the plebiscite be completely fair to both sides.

“The ability to speak freely is a precondition of a fair process.”

Mr Shelton said ACL realised there may well be constitutional complexities in a Commonwealth override but it was in the interests of supporters of redefining marriage to ensure there was a level playing field ahead of the plebiscite.

“The last thing Australia needs is an unfair and divisive American-style settlement to the same-sex marriage debate.”