Equal rights supporters blast ex-PM Tony Abbott for supporting controversial equality opponent Alliance in the US

By @chelean on
Australian PM Tony Abbott
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott addresses members of the media after a party room meeting at Parliament House in Canberra February 9, 2015. Reuters/Sean Davey

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sparked criticisms for speaking about controversial issues in an event hosted by the U.S. Alliance Defending Freedom, a republican Christian organisation against same-sex marriage, marriage equality and abortion, in January.

Among the prominent individuals who commented on the visit is Lalita Janke, a revered women’s right activist and the current board president US National Committee for UN Women.

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“The mere idea that a prominent world leader supports such an unacceptable cause only shows how far we are from reaching a 100-percent equal society. On the other hand, it gives us more encouragement to intensify the call for gender equality and our battle against bigotry and human rights violation and,” Janke said.

In his speech in the event, Abbott insisted that same-sex marriage is undoubtedly rooted to the wrong upbringing of a child who grew up in a distorted environment.

“We shouldn’t try to change something without understanding it, without grasping why it is that one man and one woman open to children until just a very few years ago has always been considered the essence of marriage and the heart of family,” he said in his speech, snippets of which were published by The Australian.

However, he also talked about his sisters who are both divorced, adding that he accepts his sisters' new relationships (one being a same-sex union) and that their new partners are "first-class members of our extended family."

His visit is in line with the group’s goals of convincing over 100 UN Ambassadors on the importance of cause. Abbott is a known opponent of equal rights movements, especially of same-sex marriage.

“Our overall objective is to inspire and motivate member state representatives at the highest political levels to remain staunch defenders of the traditional family in the face of immense pressure from the UN-system and other member states,” a representative of the Alliance told The Australian .

Launched in 1994 as Alliance Defense Fund, the group has been training lawyers to counter same-sex marriage and abortion rights in the US. It once famously urged the Boy Scouts of America to deny applications and existing memberships to anyone who is openly homosexual. It has also defended Christian establishment owners against people and employees who claimed being discriminated in the premises of establishments for being openly gay.

Abbott says no prejudice but no indifference

An Alliance spokesman told Fairfax Media, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, that the former PM was honoured to be speaking for the group in front of other world leaders and diplomats, as he, in the first place, “has been a strong advocate for marriage and freedom throughout his career."

Abbott pointed out in his speech that lawmakers and politicians must not have prejudice over a person's personal choices but emphasised that these leaders must not be indifferent "to the erosion of family given its consequences for the wider community.”

For him, what the society needs is "less ideology and more common sense," to which he emphasised by reaffirming his strong opposition to same-sex marriage. Policymakers, he added, must be the frontrunners of maintaining the institution of marriage "undamaged" so that future generations must continue to believe that real family is all about having a mother and a father.

“We can’t shirk our responsibilities to the future; but let’s also respect and appreciate values and institutions that have stood the test of time and pass them on, undamaged, when that’s best. That’s a goal we should all be able to share,” Abbott concluded.

On the other hand, in Australia, Labor Party leader Bill Shorten has urged the Turnbull government to scratch the expensive $160 million plebiscite on marriage equality. He said that the government should instead let the parliament to vote on the issue since the same-sex marriage bill would surely be enacted into law given the numbers of politicians who support the cause.

“I believe that if legislation was presented this week in parliament, the numbers would be there if there is a conscience vote in the Liberal party,” Shorten told the Guardian, saying that it’s all about aligning the national budget since “the only people who did not want marriage equality [was] former PM Tony Abbott.