SYDNEY (Reuters) – The alarming volume of hate-speech during Australia’s ballot over whether to legalise same-sex marriage spurred parliament to pass emergency legislation on Wednesday to outlaw opponents spewing their vitriol while the vote was in progress.
Australia began a non-compulsory postal vote on Tuesday that will determine whether it becomes the 25th country to legalise same-sex marriage.
But with an emotionally charged campaign raising concerns about the welfare of vulnerable Australians, the government moved to strengthen laws preventing hate-speech.
The opposition Labor Party supported the amendment, though it had rejected the need for a ballot on the issue.
Until voting ends on November 7, anyone found guilty of intimidation, or threats to cause harm on the basis of the sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status – that is people who believe themselves to be neither male or female – or the religious convictions of someone will be liable to fines of A$12,500 (over $10,000) and a court injunction.
“This bill cannot stop all of the hurt, all of the prejudice that is being expressed, all of the lack of acceptance that is being communicated to LGBTI Australians, to same-sex couple families. But it provides limited protections,” said Penny Wong, leader of the opposition in the senate.
($1 = 1.2458 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Colin Packham)