With the postal survey complete, and LGBTI marriage passed by Commonwealth Parliament, it’s time for us to ignore Lyle Shelton.
Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) since May 2013, and their Chief of Staff for six years prior to that, the events of the past few months have – thankfully – seen him suffer defeat after defeat.
First, he, the ACL and the wider ‘Coalition for Marriage’ (aka the No campaign) comprehensively lost the postal survey:
By 2,943,260 votes (or more than the entire population of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, combined),
In every state and territory, and
In an overwhelming 133 out of 150 electorates across the country.
We should remember that this was the process they asked for, one that completely stacked the decks in their favour.
An optional vote, with older Australians, who are more likely to oppose marriage equality, also more likely to participate.
A postal ballot, with many younger Australians, who are more likely to support marriage equality, also less familiar with ‘physical’ mail.
A simple Yes/No question, with the long history of failed referenda in Australia demonstrating it is much easier to run a scare campaign, and sow seeds of doubt, than to convince people to vote for positive change.
Rules requiring equal media coverage of the Yes and No cases, even when the No campaign had nothing to say relating to the question of same-sex marriage itself, only misinformation and manipulation about trans and gender diverse kids, and Safe Schools.
Even with all of these advantages, the No campaign experienced what can only be described as a drubbing: 61.6% to 38.4%.
To add insult to (their) injury, they then lost again in the Parliament, where they sought numerous additional special rights to discriminate against LGBTI couples – and were denied.
Despite having a conservative Government, including a Liberal and National majority in the House of Representatives.
Despite intense lobbying to provide civil celebrants, and wedding-related businesses, and religious schools, and parents, and charities, with new legal authority to treat same-sex marriages as second-class.
Despite having Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull support at least some of these special religious privileges.
All of these amendments were voted down in the Senate. And then again in the House of Representatives for good measure.
Shelton, the ACL and the Coalition for Marriage comprehensively failed in their mission to ‘defend traditional marriage’.
However, as enjoyable as it was to write the above – and the temptation toward schadenfreude is admittedly strong right now – that is not actually the reason we should ignore him.
After all, there is nothing wrong with losing in a democracy. As an LGBTI advocate, and a ‘progressive’ more broadly, my own history of involvement in Australian politics is littered with many more defeats than victories. And I’m sure there will be plenty more of the former in coming years too.
On the other hand, there is plenty of justification for ignoring him on the basis of how he went about the campaign itself, and the Australian Christian Lobby’s offensive conduct for many years beforehand.
Because of his (infamous) oft-repeated comments that rainbow families having children was creating a new Stolen Generation.
Because of his rhetorical link between marriage equality and Nazi Germany (“Changing the definition of marriage to entrench motherless and fatherlessness in public policy and teaching our kids their gender is fluid should be opposed. The cowardice and weakness of Australia’s ‘gatekeepers’ is causing unthinkable things to happen, just as unthinkable things happened in Germany in the 1930s”).
Because of his incitement of ‘bathroom panic’ against trans women (“Why should a man identifying as a woman be allowed into a woman’s gym or a domestic violence shelter? Why should biological males identifying as women be allowed into women’s public toilets and shower facilities?”).
Especially because of their ongoing attacks on trans and gender diverse young people. In the words of Georgie Stone:
“Although there is so much we have achieved there is still this social stigma in Australia against trans kids. That needs to change, especially in the light of the same-sex marriage debate. The No campaign used trans kids as cannon fodder” [emphasis added].
But, with the postal survey now over, and with all couples now permitted to marry, irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics, there is no compelling reason to continue to pay attention to the likes of Lyle Shelton.
It’s time we allowed his discriminatory viewpoint to recede to the fringes of society, where it rightfully belongs.
For my part, that means ignoring his attention-seeking public commentary. And not sharing articles, posts or tweets in which he and the ACL simply perpetuate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
Which means that, from today, Lyle Shelton will join an ‘exclusive’ group of people who I vow to never amplify via social media.
Alongside a certain former leader of the Australian Labor Party, turned media ‘outsider’.
And a notorious internet troll, who was recently in the country and who shares a name with a breakfast beverage.
After exerting disproportionate influence on public policy over the past decade, I think we should collectively say ‘Bye Fe-Lyle-cia’. Or should that be ‘Bye Feli-Shelton’? Either way, Lyle, it’s time for you to sashay away.