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From The Stars To The Gutter: The Second Week Of Australia's Same-Sex Marriage Vote

Threats, lies, anger, pleas and a head butt. And about 40 more days to go.

22/09/2017 4:09 PM AEST | Updated 23/09/2017 7:37 AM AEST
Steven Saphore / Reuters

Perhaps the most sensible statement yet to emerge from Australia's aggressive and harmful same-sex-marriage debate came from 'yes' campaigner Rodney Croome.

After former prime minister Tony Abbott hit the airwaves to tell the country about his alleged assault by a man wearing a 'yes' badge, Croome condemned the attack while putting it into perspective.

"When this postal survey is over, we will still have to live side by side as Australians," he said in a statement.

It was a necessary reminder.

Toby Melville / Reuters
Australia's former Prime Minister Tony Abbott alleges he was assaulted by a man wearing a 'yes' campaign badge in Hobart on Thursday night.

This week the country's same-sex marriage debate reached the stars while others mucked around in the gutter.

Big-name celebrities tweeted their support for people's right to marry the person they love, while the second week of voting was much the same as the first -- harmful negativity and wild, inaccurate statements juxtaposed with dignified positions and quiet pleas.

Abbott alleges he was headbutted from a 'Yes' badge-wearing punter who offered him a handshake, an attack roundly condemned by 'yes' campaigners and lambasted as disgraceful by Abbott's successor Malcolm Turnbull.

A supporter of same-sex-marriage himself, but wedged by internal party politics, Turnbull declared a "no" vote would mean the Coalition will rule marriage equality out of consideration for at least two terms (should they win the a second.)

Earlier in the week same-sex marriage opponents officially launched the 'no' campaign, claiming backers of marriage equality want to ban viewpoints that clash with their own on the controversial issue.

"The 'yes' side want to make it illegal to just express a different view about marriage, that is their agenda," said Matthew Canavan.

The former member of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's cabinet told Fairfax Media he feared "a strong push to effectively eradicate the view that marriage should be between a man and a woman, to make it illegal".

De-facto 'no' campaign leader, Lyle Shelton, somehow managed be heard telling the press the 'no' side had been silenced despite The Guardian's analysis showing his name had been mentioned more than the three most prominent 'yes' campaigners combined.

More preposterously, Cory Bernardi claimed "there is no discrimination of LGBTI people in Australia since bi-partisan support delivered full equal rights in 2008."

There are fears this rhetoric is working, with a poll this week showing a four percent dip in support for support for same-sex-marriage to 55 percent.

Bernardi's statement flies in the face the extraordinary and unprecedented intervention into politics by five of the country's peak mental health groups, who said up to 3000 high school suicide attempts a year could be averted by a 'yes vote'.

'No discrimination' is not the experience shared by many our fellow Australians.

This week a 14-year-old girl in Dubbo was reportedly threatened with arson for her support for same-sex marriage, while a bomb threat forced the evacuation of AFL headquarters after the league came out in support of marriage equality.

Amid all this sound and fury and anger and dishonesty, something quiet and powerful was happening too.

Australians in different parts of the country came home to mail from their neighbours pleading the yes case.

"None of us have much choice in who we fall in love with, but we can choose many other things. We can choose how we treat each other and by hoe we vote, we can make a choice to support love as love," wrote Carlos and Peter, a month from their 30th anniversary together.

"We can make a choice for fairness, and justice, and we can make a choice to ensure all Australians are treated equally under the law."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release the results of its non-binding survey on November 15.

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