Australian Prime Minister Cancels Speech to Christian Group After Its Leader Makes Anti-Gay Comment

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard did something you rarely see in American politics: She refused to speak to the Australian Christian Lobby as scheduled after its director made an offensive comment about the LGBT community:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard

In answer to a question from the floor, [ACL director Jim] Wallace said smokers were owed “a big apology” as the lifespan of a gay male was reduced by up to 20 years, half that of a smoker.

“The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn’t smoke,” he said.

“We need to be aware that the homosexual lifestyle carries these problems.”

The Prime Minister said in light of the comments, she had decided it would be inappropriate for her to speak to at the ACL’s national conference next month.

“I believe yesterday’s comments by Jim Wallace were offensive. To compare the health effects of smoking cigarettes with the many struggles gay and lesbian Australians endure in contemporary society is heartless and wrong.

“Although everyone is entitled to their own view, these statements reiterated again today on behalf of ACL are totally unacceptable.”

Good on her. It doesn’t excuse the fact that she still doesn’t throw her support behind same-sex marriage in the country, but it’s not every day when a prominent politician ignores a major religious group because a church leader said out loud what he usually only says in church.

(Thanks to Dani for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    Good for her.

  • http://www.processdiary.com Paul Caggegi

    To be fair – the ACL should not be referred to as a “major religious group”. They hold the balance of power in parliament in some states, but represent very, very few actual Christians. in fact, many mainstream christian organisations distance themselves from the ACL, who is considered a vocal fringe group. Basically, if the ACL thinks it’s a bad idea (recent targets include game classification in Australia) it’s probably a good idea for the rest of society.

    • Denis

       I think that any “religious group” which is large enough to hold the balance of power anywhere can be considered “major” in that environment.

      • http://www.processdiary.com Paul Caggegi

        Influential when it comes to critical ballots – yes, but mostly considered as a joke. They are easy to get outraged against, because they are always getting outraged, and therefore, getting media coverage. Google “rip & roll campaign”, and game classification in Australia and you’ll see the kind of low-hanging fruit they go after. They’re vocal cos they’re an easy-to-vilify group who fit the stereotype. They are even proud of it, but when it comes to actual votes, they perform abysmally. They hold a couple of rural seats, where the handful of hicks vote them in, and so stay as a presence in the lower houses, however they have no representatives at the federal level. They keep running mainly due to a large Pentacostal church in QLD. Major – they are not. A thorn in the side of social progress: only because the media gives them more coverage than they deserve.

        • Pseudonym

          I think you might have the ACL confused with Family First.  Family First is basically run by the Queensland Assemblies of God, and the ACL is basically run by the Sydney diocese of the Anglican Church.

          (For the non-Australians, it helps to know that the Sydney Anglican diocese is weirdo-evangelical by Anglican/Episcopalian standards. If it wasn’t cashed-up, it would be irrelevant.)

      • Paul_Robertson

        A couple of points on this:

        Firstly, the ACL is a lobby group, not a political party and doesn’t actually hold the balance of power anywhere. There are a couple of right wing Christian political parties (Family First and the Christian Democatic Party) which are ideologically aligned, but they are separate entities.

        Secondly, the role of minor parties in Australia is fairly minimal. Our ballot system means that a minor party can get a seat in the upper house with a relatively small percentage of the primary vote, but that seat doesn’t usually count for much. In the event that there is a hung upper house, the minors will typically share the balance of power with other minors who are often ideologically opposed (e.g. The Greens). This means that they can generally be played against each other and their influence thereby reduced. Finally, the major opposition party will typically side with the government rather than let a minor party make demands that are too outlandish. The main reason why the Prime Minister was interested in courting the ACL was in the hopes of getting preference votes (I think the US may be different – I’ll see if I can find a link to the way our foes are counted). With the current political climate, there’s little chance of that happening, so it seems she has found some courage on the steps of the gallows.

  • SwedishLore15

    Good for her, but…how can PM Gillard say that she won’t vote for same-sex marriage, supporting this view by more or less stating that she believes what she wants to believe, when she can, at the same time, acknowledge the “many struggles gay and lesbian Australians endure in contemporary society”?  Does she not see the recognition of their right to marry as one of those struggles?  Can she not see how “I’ll believe what I want to believe” attitudes from opponents have hurt the struggle for gay equality?

    I suppose she hasn’t “evolved” enough on the issue yet, so gays in Australia will have to patiently sit and wait until that happens. What nonsense.  She’s willing to acknowledge the humanity of the gay citizens of Australia, but she can’t fully support their rights?

    • Mogg

      PM Gillard’s refusal to back marriage equality is one of the mysteries of Australian politics.  On the other hand, Australia has very extensive legal rights for non-married relationships of all kinds including gay and poly relationships, so maybe she feels that that’s enough.  I think that’s a failure to see beyond her own personal situation as someone who has never felt the need to marry, but this incident at least reduces the assumption that she is simply pandering to the small but vocal Christian lobby in Australia, of which the ACL is a part.   She’s never really given much of a reason.

      • Pseudonym

        PM Gillard’s refusal to back marriage equality is one of the mysteries of Australian politics.

        There’s no mystery. Parliament is hung, and the PM’s tenure is at the mercy of the trio of Queensland independents.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000473841166 Paul Paulus

      politicians rarely do things that lose them votes.

  • Clarissa

    Basic statistics– if that 20 years on average was true, wouldn’t it mostly be because gay teens have a staggeringly high suicide rate because, oh I don’t know, people like this tell them that it’s unnatural and sinful to love who they love? Absolutely heartbreaking that this is still going on… but I can’t help but see this as a first step.

    • Baby_Raptor

      I’m with you on your general view, but your math doesn’t work. People killing themselves in their teens would only decrease their life by 20 years if the average lifespan were the 30s.

      • Denis

         I hate to point it out, but it’s your math doesn’t work, as it assumes everyone kills themselves as a teen. Life Expectancy is not an individual measure, but a population measure. For the life expectancy of a population to drop by 20 years, death has to occur on average 20 years earlier than otherwise. Of course, that is satisfied if one person dies 20 years earlier than the norm, or if one person dies 40 years earlier than the norm and another dies exactly at the norm, etc…

  • Amakudari

    And here’s what the author of the “20 years” study (published back in 1997) has to say:

    “The aim of our research was never to spread more homophobia … In our paper, we demonstrated that in a major Canadian centre, life expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 21 years less than for all men. … In contrast, if we were to repeat this analysis today the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men would be greatly improved. Deaths from HIV infection have declined dramatically … There has been a threefold decrease in mortality in Vancouver as well as in other parts of British Columbia.

    “If estimates of an individual gay and bisexual man’s risk of death is truly needed for legal or other purposes, then people making these estimates should use the same actuarial tables that are used for all other males in that population.”

    http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/30/6/1499.full

  • Brian Westley

    No mention that Gillard is an out atheist?

    • Stev84

       Who cohabits with her boyfriend.

      She really had no business speaking there in the first place and refused for the wrong reasons. She simply shouldn’t be sucking up to theocratic fanatics. But for some reason she is very busy courting the vote of religious extremists

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

    Wow… I’m in awe of this woman.  I sure do wish I could read that about an American politician.  Only in my dreams.

    • Stev84

      Don’t praise her too much. She is still against marriage equality and generally sucks up to religious fundamentalists for political gain. It’s why she wanted to speak in front of them in the first place. She should have refused to do so all along.

      • Robster

        Yeah, that was the biggest worry. The PM does seem to place the need for a general appeasement of the godbots over and above equality. I’m surprised the godbots requested Gillard to address their gathering of the deluded, given she’s an open atheist, they were probably planning to reveal what they call “the good news” (?) to the PM perhaps hoping that, like themselves, she too can become a victim of their superstitious affliction.

        • http://www.facebook.com/will.clemens.12 Will Clemens

          She is anti gay marriage People !

          • Tim

            That discounts any of the good she has done!

  • http://www.facebook.com/will.clemens.12 Will Clemens

    I loath this cunt she is very anti gay marriage , she can play the atheist card all day but she is a raging loon.


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