Tony Abbott, the former prime minister of Australia and current member of the Australian parliament, will be addressing the anti-LGBT hate group Alliance Defending Freedom the end of this month in the United States.
Abbott appears to be making the rounds on the right-wing circuit; earlier this month he spoke at a major climate change denial gathering in London, where he first dismissed climate change then said “it might be beneficial.”
The Australian Financial Review reported last week that Abbott would be delivering a lecture to ADF, though specific details about the time, date and venue remain unclear.
A spokesman for Abbott was quoted in the Review as saying that Abbott “is honoured to have been invited by the ADF” to reiterate his position that those who support same-sex marriage must demonstrate how freedom of speech, religion and parental choice will be protected. AFR noted that Abbott is expected to step up the case for stronger religious exemption laws if same-sex marriage passes in Australia.
Abbott addressed ADF last year in January in New York City while ADF’s Jeffrey Ventrella spoke at the Australian Christian Lobby’s national conference a few months later, held in Sydney, where he was interrupted by a protestor who noted ADF’s work in maintaining laws that criminalize gay sex.
ADF has supported the criminalization of gay sex, supported state-enforced sterilization of trans people in Europe and helps create legislation that legalizes discrimination against LGBT people. ADF helped draft Mississippi’s draconian religious exemption law, which grants sweeping protections to individuals, private associations and religious organizations to deny goods and services and in some cases healthcare to LGBT people.
The gathering that ADF held last year at which Abbott spoke was not widely publicized, though a transcript of Abbott’s address was posted online by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The transcript noted that the venue had been the Lotte New York Palace Hotel.
In the address, Abbott, who admitted in the speech that one of his sisters has a same-sex partner, claimed that marriage “arose as a way of dealing with human imperfection,” as a way to “keep men more committed and less likely to abandon their wives and children.” He tried to strike a conciliatory tone, and called for civility in the midst of disagreement while also claiming that:
Not long ago, most gay activists rejected marriage as an oppressive institution. Now, they demand as their right what they recently scorned; they demand what was unimaginable in all previous times and still is in most places. They are seeking what has never been and expecting others to surrender what always has. It’s a massive ask; for me, an ask too far.
Australia is currently embroiled in a so-called postal survey regarding same-sex marriage following a second defeat of the original plebiscite. The Australian Bureau of Statistics sent out a survey to Australians last month to provide an opportunity to vote about whether they think same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. The survey is non-binding and non-compulsory and the government will still need to vote on same-sex marriage once the results are tallied.
A “yes” vote is in support of same-sex marriage while a “no” vote is not. If there is a majority of “yes” votes, the Australian government will allow a private member’s same-sex marriage bill to be introduced to the house and members of parliament will then be given a free vote. The expectations are that the measure will pass. A majority no vote in the postal survey will not allow the bill to proceed.
The survey was criticized by marriage equality proponents who view it as a costly delay and redundant to holding a conscience vote on marriage equality in the parliament. Legal challenges against the survey questioned the authority of the ABS to conduct it and the government’s right to pay for it from specific funds failed and the High Court of Australia found that the survey is legal.
In August 2017, Abbott wrote an op-ed in The Australian in which he claimed that voting no on same-sex marriage:
... will not be a criticism of gay friends and family members; it won’t be an assertion that there’s only one right way to live your life or to express your love. Rather, it will be an affirmation that the things that matter should not lightly be changed and that marriage is different from other relationships.
He further stated that he is “baffled” by the claim that gay relationships are diminished without the badge of marriage. “Unmarried people are not lesser humans than married ones … Same-sex partnerships are not lesser than opposite-sex ones. They’re just different,” he continued without addressing the fact that banning certain people from an institution certainly doesn’t lend credence to his claim that their partnerships are “not lesser.”
The final deadline for the Australian postal vote is November 7, though the ABS recommends earlier.