Advocates for the “No” case in the same-sex marriage debate, Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby, and Karina Okotel, vice-president of federal Liberal Party, spoke at the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday.
Okotel, a mother of three children under 5, used the address to say Yes campaigners don’t talk about the impact of same-sex marriage on “basic freedoms”. She said she would have originally voted yes, but the more she looked into the issue, her “concerns grew”.
She gave the example of parents who complained about children at school being shown a picture book of a same-sex couple kissing. They took the matter to court after the school said it would continue to read the books.
“The court found that schools now have an obligation to normalise same-sex marriage,” Okotel said.
Questioned about what she saw as “not normal” in the image, Okotel, a lawyer, said that kissing was “sexualised content” and she wasn’t happy that primary school children were being “read books with people kissing in it”.
Here’s Okotel’s full response:
My issue with images like two people kissing, whether they be of the same sex or opposite sex, is that I believe that it should be up to a parent to decide when their child is exposed to sexualised content. That, to my mind, is sexualised content.
I wouldn’t be happy with my children, in the early years of primary school, being read books with people kissing in it.
I think that’s my right as a parent to able to choose when my child is exposed to that. To introduce programs or allow that to happen in schools because of the legalisation of same-sex marriage, I find that very troubling if it takes away the rights of mine and other parents’ rights.
Okotel said the Massachusetts court decision that the school “had a duty to normalise same-sex marriage” was an evidence of the “slippery slope argument”.
Central to the No campaign’s concerns is the idea that school children will be “forced” to be educated about and engage in same-sex attracted behaviours.
Shelton says same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools program are a “package deal”.
Okotel said children “will be taught about gender fluidity and sexual subjects”.
“Yet surely children have the right not to be confused by adult agendas,” she said.
“In legalising same-sex marriage we would inevitably lose the freedoms to call this out because it would be viewed as discriminatory to do so.”
The Coalition for Marriage released the first TV ad for the “No” campaign a fortnight ago featuring three mothers concerned about about sex education in schools and linking it to a Yes vote.
Mother-of-four Cella White claimed a school “told my son that he could wear a dress to school next year if he wanted”.
John Albiston, principal of Frankston High, where the incident allegedly took place, subsequently denied it took place.
“We checked with all the teachers, it never happened,” he said.
White, a campaigner against the Safe Schools program, was in the audience at yesterday’s National Press Club address.
Okotel said White would have spoken at the NPC “but for the abuse she has already received for telling her story”.
She said White was “publicly called a liar” and received abusive messages every two minutes on Facebook until she shut down her account.
Okotel said the No case was being “shouted down by a campaign that doesn’t tolerate any opposition”.
Shelton said: “We have had all sorts of vitriol, we have been called homophobes and bigots, the vilification hasn’t stopped.”
You can watch their full National Press Club address here.
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