Prominent same-sex marriage opponent Lyle Shelton has left the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) to pursue a career in politics, joining Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives as federal communications director.
Mr Shelton revealed he would join the fledgling right wing party during a speech in his home town of Toowoomba on Sunday.
“After more than a decade living in Canberra, fighting for truth and freedom, I can tell you that Canberra is broken,” said Mr Shelton, who resigned as the ACL’s managing director on Saturday.
Mr Shelton helped lead the ‘No’ campaign, the Coalition For Marriage, in last year’s marriage postal survey, a role he said had convinced him to enter partisan politics.
He hoped to win a parliamentary seat for the Australian Conservatives at the next federal election, which must be held before May 2019.
This is not the Australia I grew up in. But I believe that there are things in life worth fighting for.”
Senator Bernardi lauded his new recruit as a man “who lives his principles every single day, not only in the public sphere but in his private life as well”.
“We need people that are going to get at the coalface of politics, they’re going to get themselves into Parliament to make a difference, to fight without fear or favour for the things that matter,” Senator Bernardi said.
Mr Shelton is the party’s most high profile recruit since its creation when Senator Bernardi defected from the Liberal Party last year.
A controversial figure, Mr Shelton drew the ire of LGBTI rights advocates while serving as the country’s most prominent Christian lobbyist.
In 2013, he provoked outrage for suggesting a change in Australia’s marriage laws to allow gay people to wed would cause another “stolen generation”.
He also came under fire for the ‘No’ campaign’s key argument during last year’s postal survey, which was to link same-sex marriage to issues such as the Safe Schools program.
Labor Senator Penny Wong questioned Mr Shelton’s motives during last year’s postal survey campaign in a tweet on Sunday.
Could never understand why the No campaign kept using Lyle Shelton as spokesperson. Not the right choice to maximise their vote. Now it all makes sense. Burnishing his profile was the priority.
— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) February 3, 2018
Mr Shelton served on the Toowoomba City Council for six years, before unsuccessfully running as a candidate for the Nationals at the 2006 Queensland state election.
His decision to join Australian Conservatives could have implications for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, which currently has two Queensland senators.
Last year, as it appeared the ‘Yes’ vote was on track to win the postal survey, Mr Shelton told The New Daily in an interview that anyone “who thinks that these fights are over if the ‘Yes’ side wins are kidding themselves”.
“What has happened in this campaign period is that we’ve awaked millions of Australians who are now alive to the political agenda of the ‘rainbow’ political movement,” he said at the time.