A veteran Australian politician has stoked outrage and derision in equal parts Tuesday morning after he gave an interview stating that gay people can become straight, and that they should be applauded when they do so.
Senator Eric Abetz was being interviewed by Sky News about an Australian campaign for marriage equality that is being spearheaded by the home-share company Airbnb.
The campaign is asking all Australians to wear a specifically designed “acceptance ring” until same-sex marriage is legalized.
In the course of an interview with Sky News Australia, Abetz, who has been an elected member of the the Australian senate since 1994 and has long been vocal in his criticism of the LGBT community, was asked by journalist Samantha Maiden if he believed that society should “celebrate someone deciding they are not gay anymore.”
After initially attempting to debunk previous reports of his position as “fake news,” Abetz said that indeed, he did believe exactly that: “What I asked for was the media to treat people in exactly the same way. So somebody who was in a straight relationship then goes into a gay relationship, we are told that they are honest, they have come out, they are being truthful and open about their true identity.
“Now you and I would be aware of people who have done the opposite, and they are basically never talked about. When they give evidence at senate committees, their evidence is never reported. So what I was seeking was balance from the media to report both sides of this phenomenon.”
Maiden then appeared to lose patience with the politician, and asked, “OK, but do you personally believe that gays and lesbians could pull up their bootstraps and show a bit of discipline and become heterosexuals? Do you actually think they can stop being who they are?”
Abetz replied, “The evidence that has been given to senate committees, where people who have been in gay relationships, have then gone into heterosexual relationships...” he began, until Maiden interjected, “That’s a different question. I’m asking you if you think gay people should try not to be gay?”
Abetz answered: “It is up to the individual as to what they want to be, and how they want to express themselves in a free society. That is up to them. My complaint has been that when people say they have moved from a gay relationship to a straight relationship, they are never reported. Yet when people say they are in a straight relationship going into a homosexual relationship, that is all that is reported.”
Abetz, who has previously drawn links between abortion and breast cancer, has spent the hours since the interview being widely mocked and lampooned on social media.