Question: In what country will you be accused of links to extreme terrorism for agreeing with your country's law?

Answer: In Bill Shorten's Australia

During Friday night's news.com.au Facebook debate, Bill Shorten made an abhorrent accusation against Australians who believe marriage laws should remain unchanged.

“I think we’ve seen with two terrible events in the last week [the Orlando gay massacre and the murder of UK MP Jo Cox] that hate and extremism does exist in modern societies.”

“I don’t want to give the haters the chance to come out from underneath the rock.”

Moderator Joe Hildebrand replied: “Do you really think that level of hatred would emerge in Australia in a plebiscite? Do you really think the ‘No’ campaign would be talking about massacring gay people?”

Shorten's response? “I don’t understand homophobia.”

"I am disappointed that aspiring political leaders would think about their fellow Australians this way, those who believed in traditional marriage should not be described as ‘haters’ or ‘extremists’," Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton told AAP on Saturday, adding the nation had engaged in respectful debate on the issue for a decade.

"How dare Mr Shorten label decent Australians as haters and try to smear them with the actions of an Islamist mass-murderer in Orlando?" Australian Marriage Forum's president Dr David van Gend told AAP.

An Essential Media poll in March 2016 found that 66% of Australians want to have their say on marriage in a plebiscite. And a new poll of 1,222 people released by Centre for Governance and Public Policy at Griffith University on 16 June 2016 says 70% of Australians support a marriage plebiscite, with only 19% agreeing with Mr Shorten that it should be decided by Parliament. Shorten is skating on thin ice here because the same survey showed a people’s vote on marriage is also supported by 72% of Labor voters.

Shorten watered down his comments the following day. Perhaps he realised he had stepped over the line. Using hate speech to silence debate on an important topic is undemocratic and Shorten should issue an unreserved apology to the people of Australia.

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