On Sunday, a Sydney pilot became possibly the first person ever accused of skybullying after scrawling the innocuous words “Vote No” among the clouds.
While many may have mistakenly interpreted this as simply backing one of two positions in a democratic, legal survey — not least, the position which happens to currently be enshrined in law — they were quickly corrected.
“Just sayin the last time some asshole bullied a bunch of queers via skywriting it didn’t end great for her,” Huffington Post’s Mat Whitehead tweeted, alongside pictures of the Wicked Witch of the West.
“Imagine if someone painted Ban Muslims in the sky under Sydney like this,” anti-Islamophobia campaigner Mariam Veiszadeh tweeted, not quite grasping basic physics.
“It’s deeply offensive. This is not ‘respectful debate’.”
Aside from the point no one had called for gays to be banned, if “vote no” is deeply offensive, I’d hate to think what Veiszadeh thinks about her own faith’s record on gay rights, given homosexuality is punishable by death in several Muslim countries. But, you know, skywriting is mean and stuff.
The problem is, for many Yes voters, the only “respectful” debate is no debate.
The organisers of a crowd-funding page behind a separate plan to skywrite “Vote No” learned this when advocates piled on to accuse them of homophobia and spreading hate with those two words alone.
“I hope your families hate you as much as we do,” wrote one such hate-hater.
Another wrote she was comforted by the idea these anti-SSM dinosaurs would soon be “maggot food”, asking them to please “hurry up”.
Ahh, love is love!
By Sunday night, the page’s organisers announced Gofundme had frozen their funds until they revealed their identities, something they were somewhat hesitant to do after receiving the torrent of personal abuse.
Now, this is the point in the column where I feel the unfortunate need to declare I am not personally opposed to same-sex marriage.
I say “unfortunate” because it shouldn’t really matter how this writer plans to vote. Only I know too well from experience that Yes advocates like to play the man — or woman — and not the ball.
But as a journalist and a strident supporter of free speech, I can’t help but feel alarmed by the attempts to censor and stifle debate — and that’s before the laws have even changed.