January 27, 2016 at 1:00 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Former Australian prime minister to address anti-LGBT group

Tony Abbott, Australia, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is scheduled to speak at an Alliance Defending Freedom event this week in New York. (Photo public domain)

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week is scheduled to speak to an anti-LGBT legal group in New York.

The Star Observer, an Australian LGBT newspaper, quotes media reports that indicate that more than 150 U.N. ambassadors and diplomats are expected to attend the Alliance Defending Freedom event.

“Our overall objective is to inspire and motivate member state representatives at the highest political levels to remain staunch defenders of the traditional family in the face of immense pressure from the U.N.-system and other member states,” an Alliance Defending Freedom spokesperson told the Australian newspaper as the Star Observer reported.

A source at the United Nations told the Washington Blade on Tuesday it is unlikely the UN has sponsored the event.

The Alliance Defending Freedom did not return the Blade’s request for comment and additional information on the event. Australian media reports indicate that Abbott arrived in the U.S. on Tuesday.

Group represented Va. clerk in marriage case

The Alliance Defending Freedom has an annual budget of more than $54 million.

A lawyer with the Arizona-based organization represented Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg, who was a defendant in a lawsuit that challenged Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The Alliance Defending Freedom last month filed a brief with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Family Foundation of Virginia in the case of a transgender student who is challenging his school district’s restroom policy. The organization also represents business owners and others who refuse to provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples because of their religious beliefs.

An Alliance Defending Freedom representative last July testified during a hearing that Colombia’s highest court held on the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples. The anti-LGBT legal group has also supported efforts against the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations in Jamaica and Belize.

Australian marriage advocates criticize former PM

Abbott was Australia’s prime minister from 2013 until a leadership challenge within his Liberal Party ousted him last September.

Abbott — who has represented Sydney’s Warringah area in the Australian Parliament since 1994 — in August 2015 blocked a conscience vote on the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull supports a public vote on the issue.

“Tony Abbott is free to speak to whomever he wishes, but it’s disappointing he’s chosen to speak to an organization that promotes discrimination,” Australian Marriage Equality National Director Rodney Croome told the Blade on Wednesday in a statement. “I hope his message is that the core values of the country he once led are inclusion, tolerance and equality, and that marriage equality has overwhelming public support.”

Abbott’s sister, Sydney City Councilmember Christine Forster, is a lesbian who supports the campaign in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Forster told the Blade last July that she appreciates “his position and he appreciates mine” on the issue. She nevertheless expressed disappointment over her brother’s decision to speak at the Alliance Defending Freedom event.

“I do not know what Tony will be saying to this group and of course he has every right to speak to whomever he wishes,” Forster told the Blade on Wednesday. “I am personally disappointed that he is going to speak with this group, given its reputation for running anti-gay campaigns.”

Abbott has not returned the Blade’s request for comment.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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