Never before have I witnessed an issue in this country that I believe has caused so much controversial debate, unacceptable behaviours and the ability to divide Australians as the same sex marriage debate. In the interests of disclosure I would just like to say that I am neither a homosexual person nor member of the LGBTIQ community. I am Catholic, but am no longer a practising Catholic nor member of any other religious denomination.
According to an online article by Christen Tilley and Nathan Hoad for Australia’s ABC Radio National titled SSM: Keeping Track Of The Ugly Side Of The Same Sex Marriage Debate “The same-sex marriage debate has been marred by hate speech, vandalism and bullying.” and here are a number but not all of the incidents they have cited as having occurred since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the postal plebiscite on August 8th, 2017.
August 13. The Australian Christian Lobby office in Canberra was egged.
August 21. A ‘stop the fags’ poster reported in Melbourne and others around the city. A neo-Nazi group called Antipodean Resistance claimed responsibility.
August 26. Car tyres slashed outside a Sydney theatre showing gay love story
September 4. Dr Pansy Lai says she was threatened with violence after appearing in an ad for the No campaign.
September 11. ABC radio airs a caller who praises Hitler for interning gay people in concentration camps.
September 12. Kevin Rudd’s godson is punched in the street in Brisbane for “standing up for marriage equality”.
September 15. A Presbyterian minister in Melbourne cancels a wedding over the bride’s support for same-sex marriage.
September 16. A 14-year-old girl receives death threats after her pro-SSM Facebook post.
September 20. A children’s party business owner says her family received death and rape threats after she fired a contractor for advocating a No vote on Facebook.
September 21. Former PM Tony Abbott is headbutted by man wearing Yes badge.
September 22. Two women interrupt a Coalition for Marriage event in Melbourne, kissing on stage. A banner reading “Burn churches, not queers” was also unfurled.
September 23. Swastikas painted on properties displaying rainbow flags in inner Brisbane.
September 24. Bill Shorten and his daughter bailed up by No campaigner.
September 24. Man shouting about f****ts throws rocks through windows of a house displaying rainbow flags in Brisbane.
September 24. Rainbow flag flying in a Melbourne front yard is set alight.
September 25. A Sydney train is defaced with homophobic slurs, “Vote No” and swastikas.
September 26. A No campaigner circulates a video with polygamy, bestiality and promiscuity claims.
September 26. Posters similar to the ‘Stop the fags’ poster in Melbourne in western Sydney.
September 27. Brisbane priest Morgan Batt says he was spat at and called a “f***ing no voter” while walking through town in his “priestly attire”.
September 28. The Ray Hadley radio show posts a video of a woman shouting abuse at anti-SSM campaigner while removing his signs from a Sydney intersection.
September 29. A cafe worker in Tamworth, NSW, is reported to have been punched and pushed to the ground by an anti-SSM campaigner who was parked outside with a trailer bearing Vote No posters. The man denies pushing her, saying she fell.
October 3 Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, targeted by an anti-gay email campaign and had swastikas placed over her yes signs on her office.
October 25. Phoebe Wearne, a reporter from PerthNow has reported that “Australian Federal Police revealed 14 matters relating to the $122 million postal survey had been referred to it for investigation. None of the referrals involves objects found in survey envelopes, but it is understood that items such as razor blades, soil and glitter were enclosed in envelopes.
Actress and comedian #Magda #Szubanski rightly pointed out on Australian ABC’s, #Q & A television show on Monday the 23rd of October that there has been a lopsided view put out by the No campaign that this ugliness has been confined to Yes supporters and that they are bullies. She said that “there’s been viciousness on the extremes of either side”. I think Magda made some very valid points on the Q & A debate and is a great ambassador for Australia and the LGBTIQ community.
As an Australian I have to say that I am amazed, disappointed and embarrassed that some of my fellow Australians have acted so disrespectfully around this debate. But I think we also need to ask the question, is not possible that some of the inappropriate and disrespectful behaviour has been perpetrated deliberately against their own side to discredit the other side’s campaign? I guess we will never know the answer to that question, but it is possible.
What we do know for sure is that this debate and plebiscite should not be about anything else other than equality. The right for all Australians to love and marry who they choose and have the same protections under the law as other Australians enjoy. I understand that both sides are passionate about their views but this not about issues such as a church being forced to marry same sex couples, or whether children of heterosexual couples are better off than children of same sex couples, or safe sex being taught in schools.
To be honest, the whole No campaign sounds to me that it is really based on outdated, intolerant and colonial notions of the ‘other’. I can remember when I married my Australian Aboriginal husband in the early 1970’s being told by some white Australians including my own father, that I would be ostracised and should marry one of my own ‘kind’. I can also remember a time when the Catholic church would not marry a couple in the church if one of them was not a baptised Catholic. Personally I don’t see these examples as being any different to this intolerance towards same sex couples. This is simply a question of equality.
This is why I do not believe the plebiscite was the right way to resolve this issue. Our politicians should have done what Australians are paying them for and introduced an amendment to the marriage act that would have ensured equality for all whilst protecting the individual freedoms and beliefs of everyone. There is also no guarantee that even if the majority of Australians vote Yes in the plebiscite that the same sex marriage reform will ever become law. Relationships Australia have said that the same sex marriage reform is “important for to the physical and mental wellbeing of same-sex attracted people, their children and extended families”.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines plebiscite as a ‘vote by which people of an entire country or district express an opinion for or against a proposal especially on a choice of government or rulers’. With the fallout from this plebiscite and the ugliness it has created, this definition could ring more true for the Turnbull Liberal government in this country than the plebiscite being a choice of the people of Australia on same sex marriage.
ABC Radio Australia. (2017) SSM: Keeping Track Of The Ugly Side Of The Same Sex Marriage Debate Retrieved from http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2017-10-11/ssm-keeping-track-of-the-ugly-side-of-the-samesex-marriage-debate/1708062