A peaceful demonstration for same-sex marriage turned ugly when a fringe group of Christian counter-protesters turned up to challenge gay rights in Adelaide.
Around 200 people met yesterday at Victoria Square, before the rainbow flag-waving procession moved off to Parliament House.
South Australian Legislative Council member Ian Hunter addressed the crowd, along with queer youth workers who said youth health and welfare was being threatened by the closure of service projects. Lesbian and Uniting church minister Reverend Sue Wickham conducted a marriage ceremony for ten same-sex couples.
Along the way, several members of Adelaide Street Church marched ahead of the colourful crowd, wielding huge signs saying ‘God hates sinners’ and quoting the Bible. They also attempted to drown out the marriage rally with their own announcements via loudhailer.
At Parliament House the situation worsened – reports differ as to who started the violence but the police removed two members of the church “for their own safety’ and one marriage marcher told ABC News she was thrown off her wheelchair.
Here’s the ABC’s report:
Police confirm no arrests were made.
Reverend Wickham says she was saddened to see the scuffle. “Anyone who carries a banner that begins with the two words ‘God Hates’ is to my mind is not representing the Christ that Christians believe in,” she reacts.
“I feel sad that it happens. I feel sad that there is still a vocal minority who always seem to be in the media who don’t necessarily represent the view of the whole church,” she adds.
Rally organiser Jason Virgo tells Same Same he was shocked to see such disrespectful behaviour from a handful of people purporting to have Christian values yesterday.
“It’s particularly frustrating considering the day was also about marking the International Day Against Homophobia, and that small minority of people are often seen around Adelaide making homophobic and xenophobic statements, claiming to represent God.”
Virgo says he’s unsure who started the violence scuffle, but tensions were high and he’s pleased with how the police dealt with the situation.
“I heard reports of someone being punched by one of the street preachers and I know that a woman of the gay and lesbian community who wheelchair bound and a street preacher were struggling over a banner. The street preacher pulled it away from the woman, which obviously caused her to fall from her wheelchair. But instead of stopping there the Street Preacher kept pulling and this threw her to the ground.
“You would think someone who claims to represent god would stop struggling with this woman after she was thrown on to the ground.”
He adds: “I blame any violence on Saturday on the street preachers, they set out from the beginning to disrupt and antagonize people from the outset. Police removed two of the street preachers and no one from our community. I think that speaks for itself.”
Virgo says Adelaide’s same-sex marriage supporters will continue to march again in coming months, despite the tension. “We’re not going to let a few nutters stop us.”