Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - A pro-family group in Australia is locked in a battle with a Senator over moves by a state government to push through contentious legislation easing legal restrictions on homosexuals.
Brian Greig, a federal senator for the Australian Democrats, recently complained formally about what he called a "deeply offensive" newspaper advertisement run by the Australian Family Association.
The ad warned against the possible ramifications of pending legislation in Western Australia (WA) state, whose provisions include one lowering the age of consent for homosexual sex from 21 to 16.
Under the headline, "Wanted - Your Teenage Son," the ad featured a sketch of a teenage boy, with the claim that "many more boys will be seduced by older men if [Premier Geoff] Gallop's homosexual law goes ahead."
An advertising standards body this week ruled that the ads breached advertising industry ethics by vilifying a section of the community.
But the Australian Family Association (AFA) said Tuesday it has ignored the ruling from a body that has no legal weight, and is continuing its campaign against the legislation.
Phone books, bricks
In a new tactic, Greig's office is now urging people around the country to take advantage of a "Reply Paid" postal service used by the AFA, and inundate the organization with unwanted mail.
"The hideous Australian Family Association is waging a hate campaign in WA, aimed at homosexuals and at stopping law reform," says an email apparently originating from Greig's government email address and distributed via a homosexual newsgroup.
It suggests supporters may wish to send the AFA hundreds of empty envelopes "and perhaps a few dozen wrapped White Pages [telephone directories] or bricks."
"It seems the AFA would have to pay postage at the other end if the Reply Paid address is used, provided there is no return address from the sender.
"The WA GLBT [gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered] community appeals for your help!" the email says. It provides the AFA's address and urges people to act quickly before the Reply Paid service is discontinued.
Richard Egan of the AFA's Western Australia branch said around A$3,000 ($1,555) worth of unwanted mail - including several telephone directories - had arrived at the post office Tuesday morning. The post office said it would not be charging the AFA, he added.
Speaking by phone from Perth, Egan expressed surprise that a federal senator would use such tactics, saying the fact it was costing the postal service money was a "scandalous" business."
"It's different to simply trying to meet the arguments of the opposition ... I find it incredibly childish."
The AFA was referring the matter to the president of the Senate, he said.
A spokesperson for Greig professed not to have heard of the email, but said she would look into the matter. No further comment was forthcoming.
'Seduced into sodomy'
Asked about the controversial advertising campaign, Egan said the AFA had not made the claim - as suggested by critics - that homosexuals were pedophiles.
But it had sought to point out that, over the past five years, prosecutions for illicit homosexual activity had tended to involve much older men charged with offenses against minors - rather than teenagers or young men engaged in such activities with each other.
The ad had made no comment on consenting relationships, but warned that youngsters could be "seduced into sodomy" and other sexual acts by older men, he added.
The thrust of the ad was the protection of children, Egan said, adding that it had also warned about another element of the draft legislation - since abandoned - that would have legalized sex for children as young as 13 as long as there was an age gap of no more than two years between the partners.
Egan said the AFA was not taking the finding of the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) seriously, as the body had no legal powers, but was based on a voluntary code established by the advertising industry.
Nonetheless, "we find the ruling quite appalling, suppressing free speech on issues of pending legislation."
In a statement issued after the ASB's ruling, Greig accused the AFA of "disgusting fear-mongering ... clearly designed to stop long overdue gay and lesbian law reform in Western Australia."
Greig conceded that the AFA could not be prevented from running the ads, but called on publishers to refuse to accept "any further homosexual vilification advertisements."
The legislation introduced by the state's Labor government covers a wide range of "anti-discrimination" measures, including provisions that would allow same-sex couples adoption and IVF rights, and the same rights as other "de facto" couples in areas such as property transfer, medical treatment and inheritance.
The government last week won approval from the lower legislative body and had been hoping to have it approved by the upper house and enacted by Christmas. Delays have made this impossible, however, and the process now looks set to resume after the recess, in February.
AFA national spokesman Bill Muelenberg said Tuesday each state in Australia had its own legislation relating to ethical and moral issues, but "all seem to be heading in the same direction" as countries like the U.S. and Canada.
"If Western Australia goes through with this legislation, it will probably be the most radical of the states."
He attributed the liberal tendencies in WA and New South Wales - location of Sydney, Australia's largest city and home to its largest homosexual community - to the presence of a strong homosexual lobby and the failure of opponents to take a strong stand.
The AFA is concerned about a range of pro-family issues, including marriage, divorce, childcare, and life issues, he said. Many members were Christians, although it had Jewish and Muslim members too, and the organization was not specifically a religious one.