13 August 2015

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten should have nothing to fear from the Australian people being allowed to have a say on changing the definition of marriage, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.

ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said it was disappointing to see Mr Shorten impute improper motives to ACL for wishing to see the issue be decided by a vote of the people.

Mr Shelton, who hosted Mr Shorten at the organisation’s national conference last year, said that while disagreeing with him on marriage welcomed his call at the time for a respectful debate.

“I believe we can continue to be respectful even though we are on different sides of this debate.

“However, our preference for the Australian people to be given a say is of course motivated by our desire for there to be a fair and open public debate. People should not have to be afraid to speak because of fear of being labelled.

“It would seem Mr Shorten’s decision to expel Labor MPs from 2019 who support marriage is motivated by his desire to win same-sex marriage quickly through the power of politics.

“It is not good for the nation for either side’s view on an issue as consequential as marriage to be imposed without the people having a say.”

Mr Shelton said one of the first people to put forward the idea of a referendum on same-sex marriage was former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Mr Rudd said in June 2013 that if a Coalition Government retained its party positon on marriage, the matter should go to referendum or plebiscite.

“Whoever wins the next election, please let's just have the civility to open this to a conscience vote for all. I've indicated publicly where I will go on this. If he (Mr Abbott) doesn't (grant a conscience vote), then I think we then have to look at other mechanisms, including the possibility of recourses to plebiscite or referendum, including the possibility.”

Mr Shelton called on journalists to stop using the term ‘bigotry’ on social media to describe the views of marriage supporters.

“My views have been labelled bigotry by a number of journalists. I am very happy to be held accountable for my public statements but demonisation is not debate.”

Mr Shelton said it was very disappointing that yesterday Mr Shorten labelled the Government Leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, ‘a clown’ for expressing accurate views on the attitude of many homosexual men towards marriage.

“The great thing about Tuesday night’s Coalition party room decision is that people are feeling freer to express their views and that’s a good thing.”