Television ads warning that schools will encourage boys to wear dresses and compel students to role play homosexual relationships launched in Australia Tuesday, as conservatives desperately fight back against the pressure to legalize same-sex marriage and all the LGBT baggage that all too often comes with it.
“School told my son he could wear a dress next year if he felt like it,” a concerned mother says in one of the ads. “When same-sex marriage passes as law overseas, these types of programs become widespread and compulsory,” another mother warns. “Kids in year 7 are being asked to role play being in a same-sex relationship.”
“In countries with gay marriage, parents have lost their rights to choose,” the ad warns. “We have a choice. You can say no.”
Between September 12 and November 7, citizens in Australia will vote by mail on whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage. These new ads, paid for by the Coalition for Marriage, are part of a campaign warning that if Australia votes “yes,” that will place religious freedom and rights of association in jeopardy.
On its website, the Coalition for Marriage suggests that the vote on same-sex marriage is really a referendum on religious freedom, freedom of speech, and a controversial pro-LGBT education program called “Safe Schools.”
The Coalition for Marriage argues that the Safe Schools program exposes “children to gender ideology and explicit sexual material in the name of ‘anti-bullying.'”
The website includes a video featuring an outraged mother who declares, “The Safe Schools program is not and never was an anti-bullying program.” She attacked the program for teaching gender theory, the idea that gender “has nothing to do with your biological, psychological, or physiological makeup, that it is actually a social construct.” She also noted the program teaches there are 63 different genders.
The mother recalled horror stories about her daughter being taught to masturbate at age 13, the school teaching anal sex positions, and the school telling children not to discuss their sex lessons outside the classroom. “This program sexualizes children … it is absolutely disgusting and it needs to stop.”
The Coalition for Marriage website also links to the All of Us booklet, a document Safe Schools uses. This booklet presents an “interactive exercise” called “stepping out,” which explicitly encourages students to consider what it would be like to be attracted to someone of the same sex.
Another ad, published by the group Australian Conservatives, also linked transgender education to the legalization of same-sex marriage. “Same-sex marriage is only about love, or is it?” the ad asks. The answer is clearly “no.”
“If same-sex marriage is given legal recognition, it will become mandatory for schools to teach children inappropriate sexual materials such as ‘Safe Schools’ and other [programs] like it,” the narrator warns. “Often without parental consent. It is also likely that parents will have little right to object to this.”
Bill Shorten, leader of the Labour Party in Australia, attacked these ads as “offensive and hurtful to LGBTI Australians and their families.”
Nick Greiner, an Australian businessman and former politician, attacked the religious freedom argument against same-sex marriage. “Any case for enhancing protection for religious freedom exists today and is not dependent on a change to marriage laws,” he wrote.
“Today, more than a billion people live in countries that have embraced the freedom to marry for all their citizens. Britain, the U.S., New Zealand, and Canada are often compared to Australia,” Greiner added. “The experience in these countries has been that no one has become more gay, or less married, and the achievement of the reform has been a unifying moment for people across the political spectrum.”
This very argument played into the “no” arguments, however. Greiner is correct to note that many countries have legalized same-sex marriage. These countries also struggle with religious freedom issues.
In the United States, many Christians have been attacked by the government for refusing to serve same-sex weddings. Notable example include Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, Michigan farmers Steve and Bridget Tennes, and Colorado baker Jack Philips (whose case will come before the Supreme Court).
In fact, at least one LGBT group in Ohio announced its plans to target churches to force religious organizations to host same-sex weddings, regardless of their faith positions on marriage being between a man and a woman.
The Australians’ arguments about schools are also on point. A school in California recently came under fire when kindergarteners were traumatized by being subjected to a “[trans]gender reveal party.” A nationally-ranked K-12 school in Minnesota settled a lawsuit by adopting a policy, promising that it would not even notify parents when their kids — as young as kindergarten — were taught about transgenderism.
The transgender push has come on every front. Planned Parenthood’s preschool guidance includes transgender lessons. Elle magazine published a video about an 8-year-old boy dressing up like a drag queen. Last year, National Geographic put a 9-year-old transgender girl on the cover. LGBT activists are also raising money to mass produce a transgender Russian doll toy. This past March, a Christian preschool in Florida closed because it feared the state might force transgender guidelines on the school.
This isn’t only an American issue, either. Two Jewish schools in London faced closure for their stance against teaching LGBT issues. An Australian brewery dropped a Bible Society beer following LGBT backlash.
The best reason for considering the arguments presented in the ads against same-sex marriage might be the attitude among LGBT people themselves — in Australia. In a survey early this year, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Australia emphatically declared they would oppose any legal provision allowing churches, ministers, businesses, or civil celebrants to refuse to take part in a gay wedding.
Ninety-two percent of LGBTI people in the poll said they opposed exemptions for civil celebrants — those who reside over non-religious weddings. Fifty-nine percent said religious celebrants should not have exceptions. Let that sink in — nearly 60 percent of LGBTI people in Australia say it should be illegal for a pastor or religious minister to refuse to marry a same-sex couple.
Furthermore, 94.3 percent said a church or religious organization should not be allowed to deny use of its property for a same-sex wedding. When the respondents were asked if they would allow this exemption in order to make same-sex marriage legal in Australia, 90.6 percent still opposed it.
What about exemptions for business owners like florists, bakers, and photographers who may not want to serve a same-sex wedding? About 90 percent of respondents opposed this idea, as well. A whopping 98 percent of LGBTI Australians also opposed legal refusal of service by government employees at the registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages — an issue brought up by the case of Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who refused to sign marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Given these results, it is indeed reasonable for Australians to oppose same-sex marriage on religious freedom grounds. Organizations like the Coalition for Marriage also need to start educating people — especially LGBTI people — about what religious freedom, free speech, and freedom of association really mean.
Florists, bakers, and photographers arguably should have the rights to opt out of serving a same-sex wedding. (This is not the same thing as discriminating against LGBTI people in normal settings, which should be illegal.) Churches and religious ministers should have this right even more.
Furthermore, parents should have a say in what their kids will learn when it comes to gender and sexuality. If legalizing same-sex marriage will undermine these rights, Australians should indeed oppose it.