Intolerance of opposition is no way to support same-sex marriage

Intolerance of opposition is no way to support same-sex marriage, by Janet Albrechtsen.

Both Yes and No camps could start by being less shouty, less winner-takes-all, less take-no-prisoners.

A good way to check their tactics so far is to ­imagine if the tables were turned. Warning: the following scenarios jar the mind, and for good reason.

Imagine that in March this year Coopers Brewery cancelled the ­release of a “Keeping it Light” video featuring a respectful conversation about marriage between two federal MPs when defenders of traditional marriage kicked off a #BoycottCoopers campaign. The Guardian reported the backlash from traditional marriage defenders was “swift and brutal”, with hundreds of social media posts ­accusing the brewery of promoting same-sex marriage, and a dozen hotels deciding not to sell Coopers beer. Coopers promptly capitulated, issuing a grovelling apology to supporters of traditional marriage.

In the same month, suppose that traditional marriage activists targeted the managing partner of IBM because he believes in same-sex marriage, defending their ­intimidation tactics by claiming that the managing director’s private views are entirely incompatible with IBM’s stated support for traditional marriage. Imagine, too, that defenders of traditional marriage also harassed a senior executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers and an academic at Macquarie University because of their links to same-sex marriage lobby groups.

Now try running the ruler over some of Australia’s biggest businesses who joined the crusade to defend traditional marriage by asking their employees and all Australians to wear a specially ­designed “acceptance ring” to signal acceptance of the status quo around marriage. An employee of one of the big four banks told The Daily Telegraph that being “constantly bombarded” with traditional marriage propaganda put him in a position of having to jus­tify his support for same-sex marriage. The employee lamented the “sad state of affairs in a country where freedom of thought was once a prized right”. The boss of a traditional marriage lobby group said “it is wonderful to have so many businesses” defending traditional marriage. …

Now try to imagine months, nay years, of campaigning by the taxpayer-funded broadcaster — across radio, television and online — to defend traditional marriage. So much airtime devoted to supporters of traditional marriage that viewers have started to wonder whether ABC employees are paid to be activists rather than impartial journalists. When an ABC host interviewed the head of a same-sex marriage group a few weeks back, the journalist asked what right did a same-sex marriage supporter have to cheer a heterosexual athlete? …

It’s no surprise that those with strong views on both sides have settled into their respective trenches, shouting over one another and refusing to budge. But there is a world of difference between those who have been critiquing same-sex marriage, even succumbing to ill-conceived claims, and those who call for people with different views to be sacked, ­deregistered or hung, drawn and shamed in the public square or at least on national TV. There is no moral equivalence between the bullying and disagreement, even shouty disagreements.

And the silence on the Yes side about the bullying has ­become a shaky moral alibi for the bullies to continue to browbeat people with a different view.