Australians got a glimpse this week of what the ACL team has been living with for years.

They also got a glimpse of what will happen to their freedom of speech and freedom of association should marriage ever be redefined in law.

It simply will not be possible to publicly hold a dissenting view without facing demonisation at best and legal action at worst.

The viscous intimidation of staff at the Sydney Airport Mercure Hotel brought to light one of the long-standing and key tactics of same-sex marriage advocates for shutting down debate.

The Mercure Hotel said that their staff were “rattled” by the phone calls and abuse they copped when activists started targeting them for hosting a pro-marriage event.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, the advocacy group Marriage Alliance and ACL had booked a meeting room to hold a campaign briefing for more than 100 coalition partner groups.

The meeting was scheduled for tonight and is going ahead at a different location.

Sadly, we have to meet in secret.

I don’t think this is the sort of Australia most people want created by the push to redefine marriage in law.

Australians feel uncomfortable with the situation where fellow Australians, who hold to the Millennia-old idea that marriage is between a man and a woman and that children, wherever possible, deserve their mum and dad, are having to meet in secret because of safety concerns.

ACL has, of course, faced this may times before but we have never lost a venue.

Until now.

The threats of violence have escalated and we were forced to leave the Mercure out of concern for the safety of staff and guests.

They are the innocent bystanders in this debate – simply doing their job in helping a client hold a meeting. Australia is now no longer safe, even for non-combatants.

What the Mercure staff faced last week is what ACL’s staff face on a regular basis.

Our receptionist regularly fields threatening calls and has even had death threats and threats of physical violence.

We report these to the police.

We also reported to the police instances of our female staff being emailed homosexual pornography.

One image contained what looked like a minor. The police have not been able to action this.

Last week a same-sex marriage activist, who is on a speaking tour for a same sex marriage organisation, entered our Canberra office and bizarrely made a mess in the women’s toilet.

The activist was peering through our downstairs windows.

With the memory of Senator Cory Bernardi’s Adelaide Office trashing fresh in our memories, our team was unnerved.

Yesterday, when leaders of the same-sex marriage movement were asked by the media to condemn the activists who targeted the Mercure, they declined to do so.

In fact, they implied that groups like ACL had it coming.

When leaders fail to condemn this sort of activity, it only further emboldens the extremists in their movement.

This has made me very worried for the safety of ACL office staff who bear the brunt of vitriol on a regular basis.

If people from our side were ringing the offices of Australian Marriage Equality or trying to shut down their events with threats of violence, I would be the first to condemn this.

Yet politicians like Labor’s Stephen Jones smear us by saying both sides are guilty of bad behaviour.

But he and others who lump us all in together provide no evidence.

ACL is used to the double standards.

The rest of the nation is now beginning to wake up to this.

We will continue to speak about the consequences of taking gender out of marriage which lead to “Safe Schools”, where our children are taught their gender is fluid.

We will continue to speak about the rights of children, wherever possible, to be loved and nurtured by their own mother and father - something same-sex marriage makes impossible.

We will continue to speak about the loss of freedom that same-sex marriage law creates.

The same-sex marriage debate is a proxy for a radical re-ordering of our society’s understanding of gender and freedom of speech.

I mentioned legal action earlier.

Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous recently spent six months tied up in legal action before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal simply for distributing Christian teaching on marriage.

This is serious folks.

It is naïve to think it will get better once the law is changed and State-based Anti-Discrimination Law stands ready to condemn as hateful bigots any of us who publicly seek to teach our view of  marriage.

We must not let intimidatory tactics stop us from participating in the debate.

Make no mistake, tonight’s meeting is going ahead. But I look forward to the day when we don’t have to meet in secret.

To achieve this, we must persuade our fellow Australians to preserve marriage at the plebiscite or face continued persecution.

It is as simple as that.

As someone said to me this week, if we are not allowed to have the debate we should not be making the change.

Ends