PREJUDICE and hate speech gnaws at the fabric of our entire community. We are one of the most successful multicultural and diverse societies in the world.  But staying that way depends on us continuing to respect each other in our diversity. This week, I helped launch the gay global rugby tournament, the Bingham Cup, being held at Woollahra Oval in Rose Bay in the heart of my electorate.

The tournament is named after Mark Bingham – the gay man who died heroically fighting  back against the terrorists on United Airlines flight 93 on September 11, 2001. He and several others joined forces to stop them flying the plane into the US Capitol.

The terrorists had already destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Centre – symbols of American business and enterprise. They had crashed a plane into the Pentagon – the centre of American military might. UA 93 was meant to crash into the US Capitol– home of their Congress and centre of American democracy.

His courage saved thousands of lives, but Mark died with the other passengers as the plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field.

Mark’s courage was an act of courageous love, tying him and his fellow passengers forever to those he saved and those he left behind. And this is why the Bingham Cup is so important.

Yes, it’s great to have a weekend of great rugby and welcome people from all over the world to our part of the world. However, I suspect many of the memories from the cup won’t actually be from what happens on the field but from that the French describe as la troisième mi-temps – the “third half”, or the part of the tournament that occurs after the final whistle is blown.

But this tournament will have a much more profound impact. Earlier this year, the organisers of the Bingham Cup – led by the very energetic Andrew Purchas – launched the Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework with all of Australia’s major sporting codes.

It is designed to identify homophobia and exclusion wherever it occurs on the sports field and stamp it out.  Coinciding with the launch of the Bingham Cup, the framework has also been adopted by the International Rugby Board, meaning it will not just be limited to Australian sports teams.

The preliminary findings of the Out on the Fields study on homophobia in Australian sport would shock anyone who thought that Australia has stamped out homophobia. It found that 85 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents had witnessed or experienced homophobia in a sporting environment and 75 per cent of heterosexual participants had witnessed homophobia.

This is unacceptable. If you can play– you can play. No matter what your sexual orientation or your race or your religion for that matter.

The Bingham Cup is about more than sport, it is a powerful challenge to homophobia throughout our society.

At the end of the tournament the players may be muddy and a bit bruised. They will have made new friends. But most importantly, they will have helped us all ensure Australia stands up to say homophobia is wrong.

If you can play, whether on the field or the work place or the parliament, you can play.

Malcolm Turnbull (main image) is the Wentworth federal Liberal MP. 

(Photo credit: Benedict Brook; Star Observer)

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