Following our first report on the bashing of Sydney couple Craig and Shane, debate raged in our online forum as to what is appropriate behaviour for gay couples in public and what precautions are reasonable to take when out and about.

Things got very heated, with some suggesting that couples who hold hands “flaunt” their sexuality and ask for trouble, while others compared those who urge caution for safety’s sake to a certain sheik with a weakness for feline metaphors.

Yet if we discard the hyperbole and blame both extremes, both sides make points that are not mutually exclusive.

First and foremost Craig and Shane did nothing wrong by holding hands and nothing they did “invited” any attack on them, physical or verbal.

As citizens of Australia we have the same right to kiss or hold hands whether we’re standing in the middle of Taylor Square or walking through the roughest redneck town this country has to offer.

That is our fundamental human right whether others choose to respect it or not and, when they choose not to, it is they, not us, who are the criminals.

No matter how self-righteous or angry their attackers may have felt, they had no right to do what they did and no display of affection by Shane and Craig in any way justifies or diminishes their heinous crime.

When these “men” attacked they were trying to steal more than just their credit cards or mobile phone – they were trying to take away their humanity and dignity. There is nothing more human or dignified than wanting to hold the person you love.

Yet despite our blamelessness in attacks like these – and with a clear majority of Australians now supporting us – we must remember that as long as homophobic monsters like these still roam our streets we will sometimes have to take precautions to protect ourselves and the ones we love.

If the homophobes are becoming bolder it’s because they know their day is coming to an end. As Gandhi put it, “They ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Though some still believe themselves to be part of a “silent majority”, more and more are realising that it is they who are the ever-shrinking and noisy minority and it makes them crazy.

But until that day comes we must continue to be watchful and vigilant and sometimes that will mean putting personal safety over individual rights and principle until such crimes become a rarity or police find the resources and manpower to make them so.

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