Religious groups across the nation are stooping to low levels as they ramp up their campaign against the growing support for same-sex marriage.

In Adelaide, Christian street preachers crashed a weekend rally to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), with ugly scenes that saw one woman reportedly dragged from her wheelchair. In Sydney, a marriage equality protest will go ahead after initially being barred from its planned location by the Anglican Church.

South Australian police were forced to remove at least one of the Christian protesters for breach of peace on Saturday, but no arrests were made on the day.

Rally organiser Jason Virgo told the Star Observer he was shocked by the behaviour of the street preachers.

We were basically ambushed … they were fairly offensive and shouting homophobic things,” Virgo said.

“These street preachers are notorious in Adelaide, but we’ve never seen them do anything like this before. This is the first time they’ve targeted a rally.”

Virgo said he witnessed the reported incident of a protester in a wheelchair being dragged to the ground.

“A woman in a wheelchair and one of the preachers were struggling over a banner. He had pulled her from the chair onto the ground and kept pulling her,” he said.

“I’m not sure who started the incident, but dragging a woman along the ground who’d fallen out of her wheelchair certainly didn’t seem like the behaviour of someone who claims to represent mainstream Christian values.”

The direct interference of churches in marriage equality protests seemed to have also spread to Sydney earlier in the week, where a police decision in January to seek the permission of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney — which owns most of Sydney Square — to hold events beside the Town Hall, had led to difficulties mounting this Saturday’s marriage equality rally.

Police emailed organisers on May 11, informing them that the “proposed venue [is] unable to hold this event due to conflicting cathedral activities and ongoing maintenance”.

Sydney diocese media officer Russell Powell originally told the Star Observer that maintenance issues meant the square could not be used for large gatherings.

“We have received no application from this group, but in any case the square is under maintenance,” Powell said.

Powell would not elaborate on the “conflicting cathedral activities”.

On Tuesday morning, the diocese backed down on its original position.

“The diocese now understands that the rally will be smaller than originally anticipated and that issues of public safety arising from the maintenance works on the western side of the square will be appropriately addressed,” Sydney diocesan secretariat CEO Mark Payne told the Star Observer.

“The diocese will not, therefore, use its right of veto to oppose the rally.”

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP had criticised the initial decision to refuse permission to the rally. She said she had been disappointed that the diocese had refused permission and that protesters would be allowed to use a strip of the square owned by the City of Sydney.

Equal Love Melbourne campaigner Ali Hogg said there were unlikely to be any changes to upcoming Melbourne rallies.

“They call Adelaide the ‘City of Churches’, so I put the events there down to that,” she said.

“At Melbourne’s Equal Love rally, we had one lone protester reading passages from the Bible on a hill and people just kissed in front of him before police advised him to move on for his own safety.”

Virgo said his group would continue protesting the ban on same-sex marriage.

“I think it’s a sign Equal Love and the movement itself is getting larger that we’re attracting these types of groups and we plan to continue,” Virgo said.

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