News State NSW News ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ same-sex marriage foes and advocates face off at loud but peaceful Sydney rally

‘Yes’ and ‘No’ same-sex marriage foes and advocates face off at loud but peaceful Sydney rally

Opponents of marriage equality were thin on the ground at the rally, outnumbered by supporters who want the law changed. ABC / Riley Stuart
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More than 60 police officers descended on Darlinghurst in central Sydney as anti-same-sex marriage protesters traded verbal abuse with a much larger gathering of marriage equality advocates in the city’s gay epicentre.

A crowd of about 20 people associated with the “Straight Lives Matter” event at Green Park were outnumbered by counter-protesters, who tried to drown out the speeches with chants and horns.

Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, who is a leading voice in the “Yes” campaign, dismissed the rally in his electorate as a “distraction” and spent the day doorknocking with volunteers.

Nick Folkes, who organised the rally, denied the location — about 300m from Sydney’s famous Oxford Street strip — was significant.

Mr Folkes was a driving force behind a rally to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Cronulla Riots in 2015.

“Some people have said it’s provocative, but we’re just exercising our democratic right to freedom of speech and freedom of location,” he said.

“I have real concerns about not just being about gay marriage, but a much broader agenda.

“We’re acting within the boundaries of law. I do believe we’ve got a right to be there, just as gay people have a right to be anywhere in support of their cause.”

Counter-protesters, some with faces hidden by masks, rain abuse on the outnumbered anti-gay protesters.

New South Wales Police said there were no incidents at the event.

The Straight Lives Matter Vote No rally, organised through social media in connection with the Party For Freedom, attracted a few dozen supporters but about twice as many counter-protesters and police on Saturday afternoon.

A police line separated the opposing groups who levelled verbal abuse at each other.

Cat Clayton, introduced to the crowd as the woman who helped organise the controversial “VOTE NO” skywriting above Sydney last week, told supporters plans were afoot to repeat a similar stunt.

“We do have something happening, so keep your eyes on the skies,” she said.
“Any day in the next few, I hope.”

Freedom Party member Toby Cooke urged his supporters to push back against the “sick and vile homosexual agenda” in Australian schools and universities.

“No amount of surgical mutilation by some dodgy surgeon in the Philippines can make you a woman,” he said.

“At the end of the day you’re just a very confused young man.”

The same-sex marriage debate has reached fever pitch in the past weeks, as postal survey voting forms continue to be distributed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In Hobart, former prime minister Tony Abbott complained to police after allegedly being headbutted by someone wearing a “Yes” badge on Thursday night.

The alleged offender, who sported a Vote Yes sticker on his clothes, denied the incident had anything to do with same-sex marriage, stating: “I’m a lone anarchist that felt the need to headbutt Tony Abbott because I didn’t think it was an opportunity I’d get again”.

-with AAP and ABC