The Australian Christian Lobby has taken its bat and ball and gone home.

It will no longer engage in any public debates on same-s-x marriage, nor will it participate in any community discussion on this topic where they might be challenged, questioned or called on to provide evidence for their claims.

Why? Apparently because they fear “personal attack and vitriol”.

To put this in context, the ACL was the group that organised the first National Marriage Forum in the Great Hall of Federal Parliament in 2004, after busing in fundamentalists from mega-churches on the outskirts of Sydney. This public display of unhappy clappers was organised to pressure the ALP into joining with the Howard government to oppose gay marriage unequivocally.

This was the cheering audience at which keynote speakers variously described gay people as “shameful and vile” and as acting like “moral terrorists”. This is the meeting where speakers claimed that children raised by same-s-x couples, “suffered from guilt and shame”.

This is the organisation whose leader, Jim Wallace, Tweeted on ANZAC Day, “Just hope that as we remember servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for — wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!”

This is the organisation whose Queensland director, Wendy Francis, compared same-s-x marriage to “legalising child abuse”.

The gall of these people is breathtaking.

After denouncing and vilifying same-s-x relationships for two decades, saying among other things that “gay marriage would destroy society”, that it, “would lead to incest and polygamy” and that “people would marry their pets if gay marriage went ahead” — they are now saying they’re worried about vitriol coming from “the gay lobby”.

The situation is so bizarre that recently Loree Rudd (sister of Kevin), accused supporters of gay marriage of behaving like a “global gay gestapo” and “brainwashing people”, which not only shocked supporters of equal marriage but offended the Jewish community, which called for an apology.

But the extraordinary response of the ACL was to rush to the defence of the not-sorry-Loree and to paint her as a victim.

On Sunday, News Limited’s Catholic columnist Miranda Devine tried to pin the London riots on lesbian mothers, and then had the audacity to say that same-s-x marriage would be “a pyrrhic victory if it were achieved through intimidation of its opponents“. (Italics mine).

So what’s all this about? Why is the ACL really backing out of public meetings and community discussions on gay marriage?

The truth is it is losing.

When it started its campaign in 2004, only 38% of voters supported gay marriage. Now, seven years later, it’s more than 50% and up to at least 64% depending on what poll you look at. Some 75% of Australians regard gay marriage as “inevitable”.

The attitudinal shift is huge. Seven of the eight Labor state branches have passed motions in support of gay marriage and all manner of public figures have begun editorialising in favour, having read the public mood.

Every time the ACL is forced to explain its position in public, defend its arguments and prove its case, it goes backwards.

Those who are undecided on the topic and who attend a public meeting to hear both sides, invariably leave as a supporter of equal marriage.

The response therefore from the ACL has been to retreat from scrutiny, but to blame this retreat on “the gay lobby”, trying to frame it as hostile so they can play the victim card. In fact, every public meeting around the country on this topic over the past seven years has been thoroughly civil.

The strategy now for the ACL and its supporters, is only to preach to the converted. It will continue to hold meetings and discussions but only for die-hard opponents of gay marriage. It will quarantine its arguments to those who already agree. It will muster its support base for the politicians and the TV cameras but it will no longer try and shift community opinion their way with open debate. It fails at that.

And so it is that the approximately 25% of people who stridently oppose gay marriage will try and get the ALP to hold fast to its anti-gay policy and not switch to a policy of equal marriage at its National Conference in December.

Today however, opponents of equality again will be holding their annual public event in the Great Hall of Parliament to corral supporters and further pressure the Labor party. The ACL has called on its members to demand “natural marriage” and to “warn politicians”. It will be interesting to see who from the ALP fronts this mob and what they will say?

Over the weekend Warwick Marsh from the anti-gay Fatherhood Foundation told supporters he was speaking at this event but was having difficulty in getting a Labor Party member to speak on behalf of the “importance of marriage and the natural family”. Presumably Penny Wong was unavailable?

One thing is for certain however, nobody will be invited to the National Marriage Day to put forward the case that traditional marriage has in fact changed many times. Nobody will be allowed to point out that traditional marriage banned blacks from marrying whites, banned Catholics from marrying Anglicans, banned divorce outright and relegated wives to being the property of their husbands.

Nobody will be allowed to point out that same-s-x marriage is simply another step in the evolution of marriage and that saving marriage from decline and irrelevancy means that it must adapt to changing social attitudes and always has.

Facts must not get in the way of fear. Assertions must not be questioned. Debate will not be tolerated. Don’t question us, we’re victims.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW