Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is lobbying against marriage equality, says he was violently attacked by a supporter of same-sex marriage.
Abbott claims that he was approached by a man wearing a “Yes” campaign badge in the street in the city of Hobart, who asked to shake his hand.
“I went over to shake his hand and then he headbutted me,” Abbott told Macquarie Radio. “He wasn’t very good at it, I’ve got to say, but he did make contact. The only damage was a very, very slightly swollen lip.
“I was with a member of my staff, [who] briefly grappled with this guy and then he ran off swearing his head off, basically.”
Abbott used the incident to lash out at marriage equality supporters, commenting: “The love is love brigade aren’t showing a lot of love.”
While in Holby he also warned parents of the “potential ramifications” of legalising same-sex marriage and urged them to vote “No”.
Marriage equality advocate, Rodney Croome, condemned the attack against Abbott as “beneath contempt” and said it had no place in Australian public debate, “especially when that debate is about love, commitment, tolerance and respect”.
He also urged Australians “not to make a judgement about marriage equality on the basis of the delinquency of one person whose only link to the Yes campaign was wearing a badge”.
Croome noted that earlier in the week a cafe in Burnie was threatened with arson for supporting the Yes campaign while a 14-year-old girl in Dubbo received a death threat for supporting marriage equality on social media.
“I urge both Yes and No supporters to act with respect and restraint because, when this postal survey is over, we will still have to live side by side as Australians.”
Alex Greenwich, an Independent MP for Sydney and Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality added his voice in condemning the incident. “There is absolutely no place for violence in the marriage equality debate,” he said on Twitter. “This is about treating people fairly and with respect and dignity.”
Australia is in the midst of a controversial postal survey on whether or not to change the law to allow same-sex marriage. The country’s Bureau of Statistics has sent out forms asking around 16 million registered Australians: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” The results of the poll are to be announced in November.
Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed that if the public votes in favour of marriage equality in Australia, as expected, the government will present a bill in parliament in order to legalise same-sex marriage before the end of the year.