The man who accosted Bill Shorten yesterday for comments the Opposition Leader made about same-sex marriage opponents equates marriage equality with bestiality and paedophilia and preaches that gay people can only be Christian if they go without sex.

Outside the St Andrews church in Canberra this morning, before the 45th parliament’s opening proceedings got underway, Shorten was approached by Ian Powell, an Anglican rector, who began haranguing the Opposition Leader.

“You described people who weren’t in favour of changing the definition of marriage as ‘haters who come out from under rocks’. Can I ask you not to speak like that? Because I know lots of people like that,” Powell said.

When Shorten started suggesting he had been misquoted and talked about people of faith being opposed to marriage equality, Powell said it wasn’t about faith, “it’s just a point of view”.

Powell has a long history of discussing the issue of homosexuality in the context of his religion, however. In a 2015 lecture on same-sex marriage, Powell suggested that romance in films, the arrival of contraception and divorce had already weakened marriage, and suggested if same-sex marriage were allowed, then bestiality and marrying children might follow.

“Once you’ve changed the definition of marriage and made it fundamentally about partner marriage … it is impossible to not allow other forms of marriage change,” he said.

“I’m not saying homosexuality is the same thing as paedophilia at all but what I am saying is we do know that there are certain … we say know that you may feel love, you may be wired that way, but our society for whatever reason says no.”

In two lectures Powell gave in 2012 on whether Christianity is homophobic and whether gay people can be Christians, Powell claimed that Christianity being opposed to homosexual behaviour was not homophobic. He said that the issue was that people have changed the definition of tolerance.

“Why are Christians pictured as homophobic? Because tolerance has been mutated. Tolerance [now] means you must agree with me. ”

In addition to preaching that people are not born gay and choose to be that way, Powell says that people who are gay should not have sex if they want to be Christians.

“They [should] stop having any sexual contact immediately, but they can continue to live together,” he said.

He also claimed that homosexual relationships were not monogamous over the long term.

“Monogamous homosexual relationships over five years are almost non-existent. The activists are trying to say it is exactly the same, it’s just not true.”

Labor is giving strong signals it might oppose the plebiscite legislation when it hits Parliament, while the government is continuing to push the line that if the plebiscite legislation fails then marriage equality will not happen in this term of Parliament. Attorney-General George Brandis — who is responsible for developing the legislation for the plebiscite — said last night on Lateline that Labor should avoid “playing politics with people’s lives” by blocking the plebiscite.

“I very much hope that the Labor party gets out of the way on this and Bill Shorten doesn’t succumb to the temptation to play politics with the issue … The clearest path toward having marriage law reform and marriage equality in Australia is through a successful plebiscite.”

Peter Fray

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