Marriage equality campaigners have criticised a “divisive” new advertisement trying to cast marriage equality supporters as intolerant by citing abusive social media comments.
The new ad displays screenshots of abuse on social media from people it alleges are marriage equality supporters who have called opponents “homophobic maggots”, “bigots” and expressed hope that “someone kicks your teeth in.”
The ad, produced by the Coalition for Marriage, was aired during Channel Nine’s NRL Grand Final telecast, following rapper Macklemore’s performance of pro-equality song “Same Love”.
Liberal Senator Eric Abetz told the ABC the ad exposes “some of the ugliness” of the “yes” campaign, but Liberal MP Tim Wilson said it “seeks to inflame discussion” and was “trying to bait people” into being ferocious during the postal survey debate.
The Equality Campaign director Tiernan Brady told The Guardian that “unfortunately lesbian and gay people understand what it feels like to be verbally harassed and bullied.”
“We have chosen as a campaign not to highlight that because marriage equality needs to unite the country, not divide it,” he said.
“This ad is divisive. The majority of Australians are for marriage equality because they believe in the fundamental Australian value of fairness and they’re being called intolerant for believing in fairness.”
Brady said the “yes” campaign was “utterly committed to a solely positive campaign because we know we all have to share the same country the next day.”
“We all have to live with the tone that we set,” he said.
“That’s why we have refused to go negative and will continue to be relentlessly positive.”
Mental health organisations have seen a significant spike in the number of LGBTI Australians seeking counselling and resources during the same-sex marriage postal survey debate.
Last month, five groups came together to highlight academic research suggesting a “yes” vote would prevent thousands of youth suicide attempts each year.
If you need support, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.