23rd June 2016
Australia: Advocates of traditional marriage condemned for saying they face abuse and intolerance.
As we reported at the end of May simmering beneath the surface of the Australian election campaign is the issue of whether the state should promote a redefinition of marriage. Former Liberal Premier Tony Abbott agreed to hold a plebiscite (legally binding referendum) on whether marriage should be redefined to include same–sex couples, a pledge which has been maintained by Malcolm Turnbull who ousted him from leadership of the Liberal Party last September. However, in the federal election campaign which is currently happening the LGBT group campaigning for the redefinition of marriage has called for the plebiscite to be cancelled with parliament simply legalising same sex marriage, a stance that has also been adopted by the opposition Labor Party.
In the latest twist in this story Labor frontbencher Penny Wong attacked the plans for a plebiscite on the grounds that a national debate on same-sex marriage could stoke hatred and homophobia. In response federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has stated that advocates for traditional marriage also have to endure hatred and bigotry. Mr Morrison said:
"I understand the concern that Penny is raising I know it from personal experience, having been exposed to that hatred and bigotry for the views I've taken, from others who have a different view to me."
"Frankly people of very strong religious views have been subject quite dreadful hate speech and bigotry as well, it's not confined to one side of the debate."
However, he added that he was confident that the Australian public could conduct a civilised debate on the issue if a plebiscite was held saying:
"I have a bigger view of the Australian people more broadly … I think the best way is for us all to have a say on this deal with it and move on."
However, opposition Labor Leader Bill Shorten condemned Mr Morrison’s comments describing them as unwelcome and unnecessary.
Mr Morrison has raised an incredibly important subject, which should not be brushed under the carpet. Indeed, it is one which we raised in our editorial last week. This is that those such as Christians who hold to traditional family values are increasingly subject to intolerance and bigotry. That culture of disparaging Christianity and values derived from it such as support for traditional marriage is currently being fuelled by a significant number of politicians. However, creating a culture that disparages one particular group of people or their beliefs inevitably emboldens those on the extreme fringe of that culture who are prepared to resort to violence.
As we reported in that editorial, we are now seeing violence against Christians in the West. No-one is disputing the fact that the gay community have suffered discrimination and sometimes extreme violence. However, there is a very real problem that governments and politicians are refusing to address, which is that a significant part of this growing intimidation and violence against Christians in the West is related to some, though by no means all, gay right activists. Indeed, some of the incidents of intimidation and violence being used against Christians such as the violence and death threats issued against Ashers bakery that we reported last week – appear to have occurred precisely because they supported traditional marriage and in doing so disagreed with attempts of gay rights activists to redefine it.
All prejudice, hatred, intimidation and violence, whoever it is directed against, is to be abhorred. However, politicians need to stop pretending that it is only certain communities that are victims of it – and as we argued last week, stop fuelling the culture which disparages Christians and traditional Christian beliefs, which is the seedbed from which such acts of intimidation and violence emerge.