Politics

Tony Abbott Is Not The Only Victim Of Violence In The Marriage Campaign

Other victims won't make the front page. But they're just as important.

A 14-year-old Dubbo girl posted a message on Facebook last week, urging support for marriage equality. Among the many messages of support she received was another comment, allegedly posted by the father of a school friend: “Kk WTF? I ain’t fukin playing no more, u now what I’m capable of bitch. I am [name’s] father. Call me b4 I come n drop bombs, it’s my time to shine because straight up. U want me to come with a 9,mm.”

NSW police are investigating the incident.

In Queensland, Kevin Rudd’s godson was allegedly punched in the face by a No supporter while out campaigning for marriage equality. A 48-year-old man has been charged.

In Tasmania, a marriage equality supporting cafe owner received a phone call allegedly threatening to burn down his business and murder his dog.

Those are just some examples of incidents that have happened since the campaign began. We could go back further.

We could go back to the suicide last year of Tyrone Unsworth, a gay Brisbane teen who was quite literally bullied to death. We could go back to countless examples of violence, intimidation and murder — all motivated by homophobia — stretching back decades in Australia.

Gay Australians Have Always Lived With Violence

Every LGBTIQ+ Australian has their own stories, whether it’s an intimidating man in a bar, a slur yelled with cowardice from a moving vehicle, or actual physical violence in the streets. It happens in schools, in businesses, at sporting events and on social media every single day. It is our lives.

The alleged assault of Tony Abbott by a man wearing a Yes badge is rightly receiving a lot of attention today. When a former prime minister is assaulted by a member of the public, it is worthy of every front page in the country. It is rightly being condemned by all sides. The man who allegedly headbutted Abbott has done more to help the No side than probably any other moment throughout this tortuous campaign.

The assault is predictably being used by the No campaign as supposed evidence of the inherent violence of marriage equality supporters. But the assault of Tony Abbott is no more or less abhorrent than violence against everyday Australians that doesn’t make the front page of newspapers simply because the victims are not as high profile as the former Prime Minister.

The government was warned that this campaign would turn nasty. Marriage equality supporters screamed from the rooftops that a national debate on the humanity of LGBTIQ+ people would have severe consequences for our emotional, mental and physical health. That wasn’t a hypothetical. It came from our lived experience of growing up gay in Australia and fearing for our safety. We knew that when confronted by a nasty debate about the worthiness of gay people, some people react with warmth and empathy while others react with fear, hatred and violence.

We Have A Choice About What We Learn From This

This moment could very well be a turning point in the campaign, but it’s also an opportunity for opponents of equality to understand the fear of violence that many LGBTIQ+ Australians live with every day.

Many people ask what the point of a Yes vote is, given the (false) assertion that LGBTIQ+ already have equal rights. The answer is that an Australia that votes for marriage equality will be a fundamentally more fair, equal and accepting society, and we’ll all be better for it.

Violence will not end overnight if the Yes vote succeeds, but a Yes vote will instil in this nation the idea that LGBTIQ+ people are worthy of equality and acceptance. That will make Australia a better and safer place. It will be place in which a gay couple doesn’t have to question whether it’s safe to hold hands in public. It will be a place where a teen can be free to be themselves without the fear of retribution. It will be a place where the children of same-sex couples will grow up seeing their parents as equal to all of the other families in the schoolyard.

It will be a fundamentally better place.

A lot of people will talk about Tony Abbott today. But let’s not forget about the countless LGBTIQ+ Australians who have suffered in silence for decades.

If you’d like to talk about any issues with your mental health and options getting help, you can reach Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Rob Stott is the Managing Editor of Junkee Media. You can follow him @Rob_Stott.