Australian Greens Senator Robert Simms says the Australian Christian Lobby is “scraping the bottom of the barrel” with its bid to get the federal government to suspend anti-discrimination laws during the upcoming gay marriage plebiscite campaign.
ACL managing director Lyle Shelton (pictured) told Fairfax Media his organisation was very concerned about fairness during the campaign as state anti-discrimination laws in particular have “such a low threshold”.
As well as federal laws, all states and territories have laws which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexuality.
But Senator Simms said it simply exposed the ACL’s intention to run an ugly and discriminatory campaign against marriage equality.
“These laws are designed to protect Australians from acts of hatred, vilification and incitement,” Senator Simms said.
“The ACL has a history of scraping the bottom of barrel and fanning the flames of hatred and division against LGBTI people.”
Mr Shelton claims the ACL does not want to make any “bigoted” arguments, and simply wants to put forward the “millenia-old” argument that marriage is “between a man and a woman”.
Australian Marriage Equality executive Rodney Croome said it was impractical and unnecessary to suspend the laws.
“Instead, both sides should be mature enough to sit down and agree on the framework for a free and respectful debate, facilitated by the Human Rights Commission or some other impartial body,” Mr Croome said.
“Public funding for the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cases should be equal and kept to the absolute minimum, with resources directed instead to counselling for those people whose mental health will suffer from attacks on their basic rights.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is insistent on sticking with plans for a public vote (plebiscite) on equal marriage, which will not take place until 2017 or 2018, after the federal election.