This morning, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten gave a speech to the national conference of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) at the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra. He told the ACL what he thought about same sex marriage. He also gave a smooth side-eye to anyone who was thinking about being critical of his blended family.
Mr Shorten clearly the outlined the tenets of his faith and his personal beliefs, which led him to his position on equality: “When I hear people invoking the scriptures to attack blended families like mine…I cannot stay silent. I do not agree. When I see people hiding behind the bible to insult and demonise people on the basis of who they love, I cannot stay silent, I do not agree,” he said.
“When I hear that people allege that God tells them that marriage equality is the first step to polygamy and bigamy and bestiality, I cannot stay silent. I simply do not agree.”
The Opposition Leader had been criticised for accepting the invitation to speak at the national conference of the ACL, a self-described political action group lobbying for Christian values in government and legislation. The ACL have previously maintained a highly-organised and well funded political campaign against same-sex marriage in Australia.
Supporters of equal rights called upon Mr Shorten to boycott the event, and encouraged the Hyatt Hotel to refuse to host the delegates.
Mr Shorten’s words are a thoughtful exposition of what it means to support equality in this country. We’ve extracted the relevant passages of Mr Shorten’s speech for you to read for yourself:
I think I’m like many Australians, I don’t usually talk publicly about my faith – and I shall not make a habit of it.
As a member of parliament and as the leader of a great political party, I am not in the business of preaching to others, and of course like most Australians, neither do I take kindly to being preached at when I am going about my business in the public square.
And I have spent my working life, both representing workers and as parliamentarian, trying to measure up to this standard of compassion and empathy. To answer the clarion call to care for the vulnerable, to speak up for the powerless, to reject hatred and intolerance, to help the poor and to pursue peace.
Of course, none of these virtues belongs to Christianity alone.
Nor does a belief in social justice necessarily depend upon the teachings of Christ.
No faith has a monopoly on compassion.
No religion ‘owns’ tolerance or charity or love.
In our society, under our laws, whether we be Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or atheists – we are all Australians and we are all equal. First, last and always equal under the law of the land.
So when I hear people invoking the scriptures to attack blended families like mine…I cannot stay silent.
I do not agree.
When I see people hiding behind the bible to insult and demonise people based on who they love…I cannot stay silent.
I do not agree.
When I hear people allege that ‘God tells them’ that marriage equality is the first step on the road to polygamy and bigamy and bestiality…I cannot stay silent.
I do not agree.
These prejudices do not reflect the Christian values I believe in.
We are a free society, you are entitled to your views – and I am happy to share mine with you. I am a Christian and a supporter of marriage equality under the law.
However our current law excludes some individuals. It says to them: your relationships are not equally valued by the state, your love is less equal under the law.
It excludes couples that are already together in loving relationships – have been for many years – and are entitled to have that love recognised equally under the law.
And it excludes young same-sex attracted Australians. Young people who look at their government, look at their own society and then look at themselves – and see a system, a nation that will never accept them or the person that they one day hope to love.
Whatever our religious views about marriage, and whatever our social views about how best to raise and educate children, we have to change this law which discriminates against adult couples on the basis of who they love.
I understand that not all the views I have outlined today will be accepted by the Australian Christian Lobby.
But I also believe the tenets of our shared faiths and philosophical world views can help us shape a free and confident nation in which the dignity of all persons is enhanced by laws and policies determined after mature political deliberation.
My wife Chloe suggested I conclude with a quote we both find personally inspiring, from John Wesley – it’s one we share with our children:
Do all the good you can.
By all the means you can.
In all the ways you can.
In all the places you can.
At all the times you can.
To all the people you can.
As long as ever you can.
That is perhaps our shared vocation, our calling – the cause for all of us.
Today, tomorrow and always.
Now and forever.
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