As Australia’s survey on same-sex marriage came to an end on Tuesday, it’s been revealed that the divisive poll generated a flood of hate speech.
The group LGBTI Legal Service said it had collected over 220 examples of anti-LGBTI hate speech during the almost two-month voting period.
The organisation said it had monitored social media, news websites and public spaces to track statements that incite ridicule or hatred on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity.
“Unfortunately, throughout the Marriage Law Postal Survey it has been virtually impossible for anyone who identifies as queer to avoid exposure to views which condemn who they are as a person,” commented Matilda Alexander, President of the LGBTI Legal Service.
She said that, as feared by LGBTI activists who opposed the idea of the survey, the poll had “opened the door to homophobia and vilification being expressed under the guise of legitimate debate”.
The hate speech documented ranged from individual posts on social media pages to neo-Nazi groups plastering posters in various public locations (see picture).
Alexander said the LGBTI community had been forced “to put up with weeks of destructive commentary which only takes society backwards…”
Starting from 12 September, Australians were asked via a postal vote: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
It’s been estimated that 78.5% of eligible voters, almost 13 million people, participated in the survey. That’s a larger percentage turnout than the UK’s Brexit referendum.
The results of the poll are to be announced on 15 November, with all signs indicating that voters overwhelmingly said “yes” to marriage equality.
If the public votes in favour of marriage equality, the government has promised to present a bill in parliament in order to legalise same-sex marriage before the end of the year.