Last week Crikey revealed the Australian Christian Lobby wants a new law to force TV stations to air anti-gay marriage ads in the lead-up to the plebiscite on gay marriage. This would likely mean suspending the Advertising Standards Board guidelines against discriminatory advertising. But according to former Democrats’ senator Brian Grieg, the ASB has previously been “too gutless” to deal with complaints about homophobic ads.

Back in 2001 when WA was lowering the age of consent for homosexual sex from 21 to 16, to bring it in line with heterosexual sex consent law, the Australian Family Association ran an ad in the West Australian claiming that “many more boys will be seduced by older men if [Premier Geoff] Gallop’s homosexual law goes ahead”.

Grieg complained to the ASB that the ad made an implied association between homosexuality and paedophilia, and the board found that the ad had breached ethics by vilifying the gay community on this basis. The ruling had no legal binding, but the paper decided not to run the ad again. The Australian Family Association was unmoved, though, telling media at the time that the ASB had “no legal weight” and then switching to running billboard ads. Grieg complained again to the ASB but was told that after the first decision, the body had decided “to no longer take complaints in relation to adverts which are considered advisory in nature.”

“In the space of a month, the ASB went from condemning an anti-gay advert as ‘vilification’ and in breach of its standards to refusing to consider it and similar ones at all. Clearly, it was under pressure to back off, and it did,” Grieg said.

Will anything be different for this “respectful” plebiscite debate?

Queensland Parliament is now currently considering equalising its age of consent laws, and one submission from David van Gend, from the anti-marriage equality group Australian Marriage Forum, has made similar associations between homosexuality and paedophilia, stating that the change would “permit older homosexual men to sodomise schoolboys with impunity”.

Peter Fray

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