A business owner has stood by her decision to sack a staff member who backed the “no” campaign in the same-sex marriage postal survey.
Madlin Sims, who runs a children’s party entertainment company in Canberra, said the contractor had posted a photo to Facebook with a frame around it which said “It’s OK to vote no”, the slogan for the “no” campaign.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Sims said she didn’t want her business associated with the staff member’s views and likened the situation to a staffer who posted racist material online.
“Today I fired a staff member who made it public knowledge that they feel ‘it’s okay to vote no,'” she wrote.
“Advertising your desire to vote no for SSM is, in my eyes, hate speech. Voting no is homophobic. Advertising your homophobia is hate speech. As a business owner I can’t have somebody who publicly represents my business posting hate speech online.
She added to the ABC: “This entertainer of ours, she had posted representing the business on [the same Facebook page]. Not in any way am I saying ‘don’t voice your opinion’, that’s democracy … but I do feel that it is hateful being against gay marriage.
“Just like I wouldn’t want someone who is racist working with us … I wasn’t comfortable having someone who was so out and proud about being against equality.”
The post has been shared more than 260 times on Facebook and sparked fierce debate, attracting with both praise and criticism from Facebook users.
One user commented: “If churches can disown loyal congregants over a yes Facebook profile frame, this has to be acceptable.”
Another wrote: “I think you need to be respectful of people’s opinion and belief.”
The sacked staffer, known only as Madeline, is now a nanny and spoke out against her sacking in an interview with Sky News.
“I am the oldest of eight kids, I have helped in Sunday schools and church camps and kids camps,” she said.
“I’m a nanny at the moment, I’ve always worked with children, children are what I know.
“To be called a homophobe and to say I’m a risk for the children I work with and the families of the children that I work with, I highly disagree.
“It is my opinion to vote ‘no’ and I don’t think that my job should be taken away from me just because I have an opinion that someone disagrees with. I don’t think I should’ve been fired.”
In a follow-up post, Sims stood by the decision and said she’d since received a torrent of abuse, including death threats.
“This contractor was approached in a civil manner by my brother who is a friend of hers and also works for the business. He got in touch with her about the damage her publicising her views could cause to friends they share who are gay,” she wrote.
“The contractor’s response was to verbally attack my brother and refuse to take the post down (which she is well within her human rights to do). This contractor being let go… was not because I oppose her views on marriage equality.
“She was let go because her actions showed she is extremely out and proud about her views on homosexuals and as someone who, as I said before, has an responsibility to the vulnerable people we work with, could not risk her voicing those opinions to any children of ours.”