Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull tells people to give their gay friends a hug
The Australian Prime Minister has responded to a tidal wave of homophobic hate speech by telling people to hug their gay friends.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this month ignored warnings from LGBT groups by moving forward with a planned public vote on equal marriage.
Ahead of the vote there has been a surge in homophobic hate speech in the country, with leaflets distributed in Sydney bearing the slogan ‘stop the fags’ and linking gay people to ‘child predators’.
Responding to the comments today, Mr Turnbull suggested that people should respond by giving their gay friends.
In an interview with 2Day FM, he insisted: “I deplore disrespectful abusive language whether it is directed at young gay people, or people of other religions or other races.
“Mutual respect and a respectful debate is what we should have in Australia.
“If you have friends, whether they are young people or old people, who feel threatened and a bit shook up by any debate like this, this is a time to put your arms around them and give them your love and support.”
During the tense interview Mr Turnbull was accused of licensing homophobia, but he insisted he was right to put the issue to the public.
Unlike in Ireland, where a referendum on the issue was required under the country’s Constitution, there is no requirement whatsoever for Mr Abbott to hold a public vote.
He did so to stave off rebellions from rival factions within his own party, which remains bitterly divided on whether to permit same-sex marriage.
As the vote is going ahead without permission from Parliament, it is not subject to election regulations.
But Turnbull insisted: “People will often say, in any democratic debate, they will often say things that are hurtful and unfair and sometimes cruel. That is part of a debate.
“The only way to stop people from saying things that you find hurtful is to shut down free speech.”
When calling the vote, Turnbull had insisted the campaigns would be “civilised”.
However, the ‘Coalition for Marriage’ has put out materials suggesting that letting gay couples marry will deprive children of a normal childhood and make them transgender.
Meanwhile, leading politicians have brandished the slogans ‘it’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve’ and compared gay weddings to marrying the Eiffel Tower.
Turnbull added: “I want to say to you, as your Prime Minister, that Lucy and I will be voting Yes in the postal vote; Lucy and I have been long supporters of same-sex marriage.
“I do not think that if a gay couple gets married, that doesn’t threaten my marriage to Lucy which is nearly 38 years of marriage.
“And I will tell you, the threats to traditional marriage are not gay people getting married, the threats are desertion, cruelty, neglect, abandonment, indifference. Those are the threats.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten has been harshly critical of the PM for pushing ahead with a postal vote.
He said: “There will be no protection against ballot fraud, electoral bribery, intimidation, interfering with the electoral roll or publishing misleading and deceptive material.
“[The Prime Minister] is giving his blessing to billboards, websites, pamphlets, TV advertising and online material that will vilify and demean LGBTI Australians and their children.
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“We know this bile will end up in the playground, in the schoolyard and on the sporting field. The slogans will be shouted at the children of same-sex couples. Young people who are gay will be confronted by it on social media every day.
“I loathe the trolls and the haters but I expected more from the Prime Minister. I hold the Prime Minister responsible for every hurtful bit of filth this debate will unleash.
“That is not because the Prime Minister has said it, not because the Prime Minister agrees with it—he clearly doesn’t—but because the Prime Minister has licensed this debate.
“You are the leader, Mr Turnbull; you have given permission. I will never hold you in the same light again. I hold the Prime Minister responsible and Australians will too.”