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The biggest lies being told in the SSM 'debate'

"RESPECTFUL" debate, they said. "Agree to disagree", they urged. But already the same-sex marriage debate has fallen head first into the gutter.

Those opposed to same-sex marriage say they are being "demonised". But 'yes' campaigners have pointed to a string of posters and leaflets that claim same-sex marriage will be a slippery slope towards everything from boys cross dressing and the destruction of "our entire way of life".

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week pleaded for campaigners to play nice.

"I deplore disrespectful, abusive language, whether it is directed at young gay people or religious people," he said.

Critics however point out that the Coalition government's insistence on having a public vote opened the door to this bitter debate.

On Friday, marriage equality advocate and sister of former PM Tony Abbott, Christine Forster, told Sky News the heat needed to be taken out of the same-sex marriage debate.

"Some things are being said that people are taking to heart, but we do have to be careful, that we do not make outlandish claims."

So what are some of the most outlandish claims and statements that have been made during the same-sex marriage debate?

Cella White, here in a 2016 video speaking about her views on the Safe Schools program, also features in the Coalition for Marriage’s latest ad.
Cella White, here in a 2016 video speaking about her views on the Safe Schools program, also features in the Coalition for Marriage’s latest ad. Supplied

BOYS WILL DRESS AS GIRLS

In the controversial first ad from the Coalition for Marriage, which aired earlier this week, mum-of-four Cella White tells viewers that her son's school told him "he could wear a dress next year if he felt like it".

But Frankston High School principal John Albiston said the offer was never made.

"She said it happened in a science class so we spoke to her son's science teachers. They said it never happened," Mr Albiston told AAP on Wednesday.

Ms White is sticking with her story. But whatever the truth, those advocating for 'yes' say the example was focused on criticism of the Safe School's program and was irrelevant to gay marriage.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Simon Birmingham said marriage was being conflated with unrelated issues.

"It is patently ridiculous to suggest that allowing same-sex couples to marry is somehow going to see some new wave of teaching reform sweep across the country. That's just not going to happen."

CHILDREN WILL BE MOLESTED

Neo-Nazi group Antipodean Resistance has claimed responsibility for a poster spotted in Melbourne that claims "gay marriage enables paedophilia" and "gay couples are thirty times more likely to molest children".

The appalling poster is a classic of the genre that attempts to link two entirely separate concepts. Given gay parents are already bringing up children, marriage will have no effect.

The figures for child molestation which this hateful poster is relying on, are also fictious.

According to the American Psychological Association and multiple studies children are no more likely to be molested by LGBTI parents, than by male-female parents.

WOMEN WILL BE RAPED IN TOILETS

A highly offensive, and badly written anti same-sex marriage flyer has found its way into Sydney letterboxes.

Printed in both English and Chinese it contains a slew of misleading information.

One of the most disgraceful claims is that "the number of victims being raped in public female changing rooms and bathroom in those countries that has passed the same sex marriage legislation is a stunning fact to all!"

Except it's not a stunning fact. It's a stunning falsehood.

The appalling ‘stop the fags’ poster seen in Melbourne
The appalling ‘stop the fags’ poster seen in Melbourne Supplied

CHILDREN WILL GET FAT

This was the central claim of the now infamous 'stop the fags' posters which popped up in Melbourne.

The poster cited research by Dr Paul Sullins that found 72 per cent of children raised by two mums or two dads are obese and a further 51 per cent are depressed.

But Dr Sullins' research has been criticised for only having a small sample of subjects, failing to take into account other factors - such as a divorce - and the potential conflict of interest of the author being a catholic priest.

Victorian Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton said the posters were offensive and inaccurate.

"The most recent review by Columbia Law School earlier this year looked at 79 different studies into the wellbeing of children with gay or lesbian parents.

"That study, the most comprehensive of its kind, found kids [with LGBTI parents] do as well [as other children] emotionally, educationally and socially."

THE "AUSSIE WAY OF LIFE" WILL BE DESTROYED

An email from the Marriage Alliance's Sophie York has accused the 'yes' campaign of bullying.

"They screamed when our ad hit the air. Yet it is their campaign for a 'yes' vote that threatens to destroy our entire Aussie way of life."

The banned Marriage Alliance ad featuring a woman with a rainbow noose around her neck.
The banned Marriage Alliance ad featuring a woman with a rainbow noose around her neck. Supplied

OFFICE WORKERS WILL HANG THEMSELVES

An oldie but a baddie. Last year, the Marriage Alliance created an ad that showed a troubled looking office worker with a rainbow noose around her neck.

"Same sex marriage increases PC bullying in the workplace," said the ad.

Mental health charity Beyondblue said the ad itself was "harmful".

The Advertising Standards Board agreed and banned the ad on the grounds it was "extreme" and "a depiction of violence which is not justifiable in the content of the product or service advertised."

CHURCHES WILL BE BURNED TO THE GROUND

People opposed to same-sex marriage are not the only ones prone to hyperbole. One of the mums in the recent Coalition for Marriage ad has been the victim of some unsavoury social media haranguing.

Heidi McIvor, a pastor at City Builders Church in Sale, received one message that said: "Let's burn there (sic) church".

Ms McIvor told news.com.au people should debate the issues raised in the ad rather than, "delve into the personal and work lives of the women on this ad and use it to discredit us, demonising mothers for defending their rights."

The Coalition for Marriage said the only way to protect freedom of speech was to vote 'no'.

Tiernan Brady, the head of the largest ‘Yes’ campaign, said he is committed to a “respectful conversation”.
Tiernan Brady, the head of the largest ‘Yes’ campaign, said he is committed to a “respectful conversation”. Supplied

Equality Campaign executive director Tiernan Brady told news.com.au the comments directed at Ms McIvor were "unacceptable and not representative," of the mainstream Yes campaign.

But he noted the abuse was going both ways.

"I don't believe the abusive tone and terrible posters that have gone up from activists on the 'No' side reflect the opinions of genuine 'No' voters," he told news.com.au.

He criticised the no campaign for conflating issues when the simple question was, should same-sex couples be allowed to wed.

Mr Brady said the dominant tone of the campaign from the 'Yes' side had been unifying and one of respect and engagement.

"The day after marriage equality happens, we still have to share the same country.

"From a campaign point of view, we're totally committed that this has to be a campaign of respectful conversation, not of angry debate."

And the ballots haven't even been posted yet.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you need help with depression, please see Beyond Blue for a list of organisations that can help.

benedict.brook@news.com.au

Topics:  bullying editors picks harassment homophobia lies same-sex marriage ssm

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