The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Football League (AFL) has put his organization’s support for same-sex couples being allowed to legally marry on the record after he received a letter on the issue from the mother of a gay son.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan wrote back to Geelong woman Sharyn Faulkner on 14 August to clarify where his organization stood on the issue.
‘Dear Sharyn, I write in response to your letter regarding marriage equality,’ McLachlan wrote.
‘For myself and for the AFL, I will clearly state for the record that we as an organization entirely support the views expressed in your letter.’
‘The AFL will keep saying, no matter how many times it takes, that our game does not tolerate discrimination in any form, be that sexual identity, gender, race, religious views etc and redress for any player, coach, or official is clearly written into our rules.
‘We also support the position of marriage equality for all people,’ he wrote.
AFL teams the Geelong Football Club and the Greater Western Sydney Giants had already announced their support for same-sex marriage.
All of Australia’s largest sporting codes recently joined together to make a commitment to wipe out homophobia in sport, but this appears to be the first time that a major sporting code has so explicitly and publicly backed the legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia.
McLachlan’s response to her letter was praised by Ms Faulker who said it would embolden other people in the AFL community to be public with their support.
‘I applaud Gillon McLachlan for giving his personal commitment to continue to speak out for marriage equality whenever he can and I hope that all the AFL Club Presidents and members give that same commitment,’ she said.
‘The AFL’s policy of having no tolerance to discrimination in any form was heartening and for them to actually say that “they support the position of marriage equality for all people” will make it so much easier for people to say “If the AFL and my football club can say no to discrimination and yes to equality, then so can I!”’
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome welcomed the timing of the AFL’s announcement as the Australian Parliament prepares to consider the issue once again.
‘I applaud the AFL for extending its leadership on combating homophobia to support for marriage equality,’ Croome said, ‘AFL is central to Australian identity and the AFL's support for marriage equality reaffirms that values like inclusion and fairness are central too.’
‘With almost three quarters of Australians supporting marriage equality, the AFL's support for the reform will be welcome by many AFL players and fans, and in all likelihood draw new fans to the game.’
The news comes as newly minted cross bench Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm prepares a private member's bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
He has put the issue at the top of his agenda since joining the Australian Senate on 1 July and is hopeful that the Liberal National Party Room will soon allow all Government lawmakers a conscience vote on the issue.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage but has said he will leave it to his party room to decide whether MPs get a free vote on the issue or not.