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Gay marriage campaign funding raises fear of summer of hate


Supporters of same-sex marriage fear providing $15 million in public funding for opposing sides in a plebiscite opens up the gay and lesbian community to a summer of hate.

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The coalition party room today will consider cabinet’s decision to hold a plebiscite on February 11 and give $7.5 million each to the two sides of the debate.

MPs are also expected to endorse the question that will be put to voters: “Do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

But a compulsory vote and funding for the plebiscite needs parliament’s approval, something Labor’s Graham Perrett thinks won’t happen.

“All this kowtowing to the extreme right of (the coalition) will all come to nought and be a total waste,” he told ABC radio.

“It’s got a snowflake’s chance in hell of getting through the Senate.”

Marriage equality advocates says public funding for yes and no cases makes the plebiscite even more unacceptable.

“We cannot countenance taxpayers’ money being spent on what is likely to be hurtful, harmful and even hateful campaign materials from the ‘no’ case,” Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays spokeswoman Sharyn Faulkner said.

Greens senator Janet Rice is worried the gay and lesbian community now face a summer of “hateful, hurtful, homophobic” speech.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said those who had advocated public funding – mostly opponents of same-sex marriage – also wanted anti-discrimination and advertising rules suspended.

“What is it that these organisations want to say that is against the law to say right now?” she asked on ABC radio.

The Australian Christian Lobby says public funding would level the playing field but complained $7.5 million apiece was on the low side.

“It’s been a very one-dimensional debate about the love of two people but there’s been very little discussion about the consequences,” managing director Lyle Shelton told ABC radio.

His group intends to campaign on issues such as gender teaching in schools, including the Safe Schools program.

Labor, the Greens and advocates are still holding out hope for a free vote in parliament on same-sex marriage.

Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm described that as a “heroic assumption”.

“Same sex marriage is a bit like a seedling tree, everybody wants to own it,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“All the interest groups are like dogs and you know when a dog likes to own territory it cocks its leg on it – they’ll all cock their legs on it so much, that they will kill the tree.”


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