Unacceptable bullying in Tasmanian marriage debate

As evidenced by the recent Tasmanian parliament’s motion calling on federal politicians to support same-sex marriage, the marriage debate is increasingly characterised by name-calling and abuse, particularly by those claiming to pursue tolerance and acceptance.

The debate showed that supporters of marriage are increasingly the target of aggressive attacks in the public arena, with Tasmanian opposition leader Will Hodgman the latest victim of a barrage of verbal abuse from Greens members, as documented in the Parliamentary Hansard.

Mr Hodgman, speaking on behalf of his party, was the lone voice in support of the current definition of marriage when Parliament rose to discuss the motion. Declaring the Liberal Party’s strong support for “the institution of marriage and its value in our community”, Mr Hodgman was accused of “bigotry” and told that his views “fester and engender hatred”.

Greens MP Cally O’Connor claimed she “felt sick listening to him”, while fellow Green MP Kim Booth said it “made me feel ill to even hear him utter the words that he spoke”. Mr Booth accused Mr Hodgman of using “divisive, hideous language” in a speech that was “shameful, divisive, reactionary, [and] unpleasant”.

But Mr Hodgman was merely articulating the view held by a significant proportion of Australians, that marriage is, as it has been across all cultures for thousands of years, the union of one man and one woman. Mr Hodgman said the Liberal party acknowledges “the benefits of marriage in bringing social cohesion as a foundation of the family, and indeed that which benefits children, both born and those who will be born from a marriage”.

Mr Hodgman also condemned discrimination, vilification, or abuse of homosexual people, arguing that supporting marriage “in no way suggests that anyone will necessarily be tolerant” of such discrimination.

For this, however, he was accused of bigotry and of festering hatred, his mainstream views on marriage dismissed as being “patently wrong . . . offensive, oppressive and unacceptable”.

Whilst this debate is bound to provoke strong emotions, it must not be conducted in a spirit of intimidation, where people are bullied and intimidated into silence.

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