Australian Christian Lobby Disappointed Even Joe Bullock Can’t Tolerate Himself

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Tolerance might not be a word you associate closely with the rabidly anti-LGBTI Australian Christian Lobby, a group that recently made headlines after requesting exemptions to anti-discrimination legislation so that it could campaign against marriage equality in the manner it wanted to.

Yet the ACL apparently holds the value of tolerance dear, issuing a press release today expressing its “disappointment” over the departure of Labor Senator Joe Bullock, who announced his retirement from the Senate last night.

“Senator Bullock’s resignation a sad day for tolerance,” the release lamented.

Bullock declared his resignation in an oration of sufficient weirdness to justify a quick look at in its own right. The outgoing Senator attributed his resignation to the “homosexual marriage debate” within Labor, and the party’s decision to make all MPs bind to a ‘yes’ vote on marriage equality after the next election. In the remarks Bullock cast himself as a hero, fighting for his beliefs until the end (which, given his six-year term began in 2014, turned out to be pretty close to the beginning). By Bullock’s account his decision to go was the last, glorious, self-sacrificing act of a man who always put principle first.

“The ALP needs all of its senators to work without reservation for the election of a Labor government,” he said. “I can’t do that and I am morally obliged to resign from the Senate and allow my party to fill my position with someone who can give the commitment that I cannot.”

Bullock’s Parliamentary career now rests, but will always be bookmarked by attacks on LGBTI people. It opened with a series of jibes at Senator Louise Pratt over her sexuality, and closed with a denouncement of Safe Schools on the basis it was “narrowly focused on homosexual issues”. It’s an odd rebuke for a program specifically designed to deal with homophobia, like asking ‘how dare this ship building program be so focused on the navy’.

And that’s why ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton was devastated, saluting his new martyr while simultaneously ignoring Bullock’s stated reasons for leaving.

To Shelton, the incident provided more evidence of the intolerance now all too regularly suffered by the intolerant.

“It is tragic that someone like Senator Bullock, who has given his life to the Labor cause, has effectively been driven out of the party he loves because it no longer tolerates support for the timeless definition of marriage,” Shelton said.

“Senator Bullock has showed great honour in resigning. The best way for Labor to again welcome people who support traditional marriage is for the Australian people to vote to preserve it at the promised plebiscite.”

Shelton also criticised the ALP for taking on board a “rainbow ideology” which he inferred to be bad. We can only presume the ACL will also speak up soon on the nefarious ‘lollypop lobby’ and secretive ‘sunshine agenda’.

Shelton may have added Bullock to his bizarrely misplaced narrative of victimhood, but there’s little reason to see the former’s howling and the latter’s political displacement as anything other than the manifestation of a societal-wide shift in values, as the last opponents of queer rights are set adrift by the body politic.

If Shelton is worried about those in Labor who have been forced out of the party he could do worse than spare a thought for Pratt, the Senator who was turfed out after a factional fix saw Bullock promoted above her on the WA voting ticket. Pratt, who has a transgender partner and has been a long-time LGBTI advocate, had her sexuality and activism mocked by Bullock. He later apologised in an email to Labor member.

Leaving parliament seems an appropriate coda to that correspondence. If anyone’s issues with tolerance led to Bullock’s resignation from the Senate it was his own.

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Max Chalmers

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.

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