The recent threats against Mercure Hotel staff by LGBTI campaigners show the “poison” in public life, says journalist David Crowe.
Staff at the Mercure Hotel were threatened by same-sex marriage advocates via social media and phone calls, all because the hotel had taken a conference room booking from a collection of pro-traditional marriage groups, including Marriage Alliance. Boycotts are the order of the day, and they can be “easily extended to anyone connected to the target on the grounds that they are somehow helping your opponent”.
The Mercure Hotel episode demonstrates how public debate in Australia has been eroded by radical activists. As Crowe points out, even “bystanders” can be attacked simply for taking a neutral stance on the issue:
This is the latest proof of the new intolerance. It is no longer enough to disagree with an opponent — you have to shout them down, silence them and run them underground. Certain of their moral superiority, campaigners have no qualms about taking hostages. The Mercure hotel staff were collatoral [sic] damage.
This is what Australians can expect if the definition of marriage is changed: disagreement will no longer be allowed, and those who disagree will be required to comply, even with threats of physical violence.
In another example cited in the above article, Bendigo Bank was attacked by same-sex marriage supporters when the bank maintained a neutral stance on the topic, suggesting that the issue of same-sex versus traditional marriage was up to individuals rather than to corporations. The campaign to change the definition of marriage is not about having a “live and let live” attitude. It will not be enough for people to remain neutral, they will be required to support the change or suffer consequences.
In framing any opposition to same-sex marriage as “ugly”, “bigoted”, or “harmful”, many political leaders – including Bill Shorten – have attempted to quash opposition to same-sex marriage. It is ironic that the campaign tactics of same-sex marriage supporters continue to use tactics that they fear opponents will use.
Yet, even some who support changing the marriage act recognise that these aggressive attacks are not laudable. Two ardent supporters of gay marriage, senator Nick Xenophon and Liberal National Party MP Warren Entsch, spoke out against the attacks on the Mercure Hotel. Xenophon asked:
“Does this mean if someone repugnant flies with a particular airline that you boycott that airline?... Am I missing something here? It seems wacky to me.”
Entsch described the attacks a “bloody disgrace”. Crowe writes:
This is a fundamental feature of the new intolerance. Whether tactics are acceptable or not depends on the identity of the victim. Imagine the media response to phone threats and Facebook abuse that tried to shut down a meeting of Australian Marriage Equality. There would be no reluctance to condemn tactics that forced gays and lesbians to hold their meetings in secret. The parallels with the discrimination of the past would be too obvious. Yet the intolerance of the present is shrugged off.
A genuine debate on same-sex marriage is possible – as long as those on both sides hold themselves to the same standards.