THE intolerance shown by those supporting marriage equality towards those with a contrary view is often uglier than the prejudice they protest.
It was well highlighted last night on Q&A when as soon as someone spoke out against gay marriage, she was described as sprouting ''American evangelical clap-trap''.
Anyone in Australia who argues the traditional view of marriage is quickly demonised, including our Prime Minister.
I have little doubt that, based on current polling, most Australians support marriage equality.
They believe it is a fundamental human rights issue and that it is time, as the Greens argue, that an issue of prejudice is put behind us in the 21st century.
But it is equally important that we have a robust - and well informed - debate about the impact such a change has on our society, our family structure and particularly our children.
Traditional marriage advocate Katy Faust, who was raised by loving lesbian parents, argues there has not been enough debate about the harmful effects of children being raised by same-sex parents.
Labor MP Sam Daystari took no time to jump on her comments, accusing her of having a hateful view.
"I find it very hard to respect your views because I don't think it comes from a place of love, I think it comes from a place of hate,' he said.
"I worry that so much of your view comes from not really with an issue of marriage, but an issue with homosexuality.
"You have described it as a lifestyle. You have said homosexuality drives us further away from God.
"I'm sorry, but I think this American evangelical clap-trap is the last thing we need in our debate."
Spiked Online editor Brendan O'Neill countered that view strongly on Q&A.
"Here's what freaks me out about gay marriage,'' he said.
"It presents itself as this kind of liberal civil-rightsy issue, but it has this really ugly intolerant streak to it.
"Anyone who opposes gay marriage is demonised, harassed."
O'Neill said there was a real "ugly element" to the debate where people who opposed same-sex marriage were ostracised for having a different opinion.
"I think you really see it in this whole cake shop phenomenon," he said.
"This whole thing around the western world where people are going to traditional Christian cake shops and saying to them, 'hey you, stupid Christian, make this cake for me' and if they don't they call the police.
"There are equality cases, shops have closed down. It's a 21st Century form of religious persecution. It's horrendous."
"Tony Abbott is now being described as someone from the Dark Ages for believing what humanity has believed for thousands of years,'' O'Neill said.
"Within the space of a decade something humanity believed in for thousands of years has somehow become a form of bigotry, a form of hate something you're not allowed to express in public life.
"That extraordinary shift in intolerance is something all liberals, like me, should be worried about. Gay marriage is not a liberal issue it has a deeply illiberal streak."
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said he was he was concerned the marriage debate had become intertwined with the issue of parenting.
He said studies showed a child does best when raised in a loving household.
He dismissed Ms Faust's claims that scientific studies showed it had to be a mother and a father calling them "nonsense" and "rubbish".
If that is the best counter argument he can come up with, clearly the debate has a way to go.
Mark Furler is APN Australian Regional Media's group digital editor. He has been a journalist on the Sunshine Coast for almost 30 years. Mark is happy to declare his Christian beliefs.
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