Just one day after survey papers were mailed to Australians, the same-sex marriage debate has taken an ugly turn.
Rugby union superstar Israel Folau sparked a Twitter backlash by revealing he will not support the push for same-sex marriage, just hours before it was revealed the godson of former prime minister Kevin Rudd was punched for “standing up for marriage equality”.
Star Wallabies player Folau tweeted on Wednesday afternoon:
I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage.✌❤🙏
— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) September 13, 2017
He was immediately inundated with dozens of posts criticising him for his stance.
Guardian columnist Van Badham wrote: “Then you DON’T respect all people. You think some people are beneath having rights that you personally enjoy. That’s not love.”
Folau is believed to be the first high-profile sportsperson to have publicly announced their opposition to same-sex marriage.
It comes after some sporting organisations – including the Australian Rugby Union, the NRL, Cricket Australia and Football Federation Australia – declared their support for a ‘yes’ vote in the government’s postal survey.
The 28-year-old was raised as a Mormon and is a devout Christian after his family converted in 2011.
Folau credits his relationship with God as one of the reasons for his athletic prowess and his success in the three codes of NRL, AFL and rugby union.
Folau’s tweet didn’t only draw criticism, however, with many supporting his right to state his opinion – many of which were scathing about same-sex marriage and its supporters.
His tweet got 45 retweets and 172 likes within the first hour of it being posted on Twitter.
We know those reactions will be seized upon by right wing zealots, distorted and he will be martyred by the no-compoops. Don't feed them.
— Richard Hinds (@rdhinds) September 13, 2017
His views are in stark contrast to Wallabies teammate David Pocock, who has taken the year off rugby but will be back in the Test ranks alongside Folau next year.
A passionate campaigner for a variety of social issues, including homophobia and marriage equality, Pocock famously declared four years ago that he would not tie the knot with his partner Emma Palandri until people of the same sex were legally permitted to do the same.
As recently as last month, Pocock was using his Twitter account to encourage people to check their enrolment to ensure they are able to vote.
Meanwhile, Mr Rudd posted a photo of his godson Sean Foster on Twitter sporting a bloody cut over his nose on Wednesday.
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) September 13, 2017
“So many warnings to Turnbull about what the postal vote could unleash,” Mr Rudd tweeted from New York.
“Now my godson Sean has been punched standing up for marriage equality.”
According to Bulimba for Marriage Equality Facebook page, Foster’s alleged attacker was pulling down rainbow flags in the Brisbane suburb, yelling homophobic slurs directed at the young man.
“I hate f—–g f—–s!” the man reportedly said.
Mr Rudd’s godson reportedly stood up to the perpetrator and responded: “That’s ok, I don’t like you,” before being attacked.
The claims come as former High Court judge Michael Kirby again weighed into the same-sex marriage debate, describing the postal survey as “hurtful”.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the University of Adelaide on Wednesday, Mr Kirby, who is gay, says the survey shows once again that LGBTI Australians are singled out for discrimination and unequal treatment under the law.
He also lashed the Federal Parliament for “shamefully” failing to deal with the issue.
“To submit the rights of a minority of citizens of this country to the voting decision of a majority of others as a precondition to the mere possibility of having the issue considered in the normal way in Parliament is very hurtful,” he told the ceremony on Wednesday.
“It is hurtful to me. It is hurtful to my partner of 48 years.”
– with AAP