On February 18, the Bairnsdale Advertiser ran two editorials about the UK marriage vote that chastised the gay marriage movement and suggested it was part of a wider agenda that was “straining the fabric of society”.
“Australia’s homosexuals have called for another attempt to bring ‘gay’ couples into the heterosexual fold following last year’s failed vote,” it read.
“…equating same-sex unions with marriage is the latest but not the final goal of the broader ‘gay agenda’. Moreover radically redefining marriage is not as well-supported as is claimed, although it remains the prime example of the power of agitation and political tenacity to radically alter public sentiment.”
Bairnsdale resident Jessica John started an online petition last month opposing the comments, which has collected 1,563 signatures over the past week-and-a-half.
In the petition, John said homosexuality was not a wacky theory, challenging the paper’s use of the word ‘gay’ in quotation marks.
“People are gay, have been gay, and will be gay until the end of time. This is common knowedge, something that most people know and the majority of Australians (62% according to a recent Galaxy poll) are okay with,” she wrote.
“Of course we are trying to bring people of all differences together! There is not reason for red tape to get in the way of those in love wanting to be married.”
A photo of Bairnsdale resident David Elliott and his partner, a local doctor, at their commitment ceremony was featured in the weekly newspaper a few pages away from the editorials.
Elliott told the Star Observer he felt vilified by the editorials but was amazed at the community support that had followed.
“It wasn’t really about marriage it was an attack on homosexuals,” he said.
“You wouldn’t expect to see it in Bairnsdale in 2013.”
On Wednesday, a group of 15 people approached the newspaper with the signatures.
Elliott said he was the only gay person there and he felt overwhelmed by the support.
“It was a reaffirmation of why we actually came to live in a rural community, that we actually wanted a community we weren’t getting in the Melbourne CBD,” he said.
“A whole bunch of people came together who I didn’t know and said ‘enough was enough’”.
The Bairnsdale Advertiser declined to comment.