A man who was ordered by his local council to remove an anti-gay marriage billboard from the side of a road in north-western Tasmania has erected another one with the assistance of local church groups.
Graham Hodge erected the first sign in April near the town of Wynyard which depicted a male symbol and a female symbol and an equals sign with two rings but was ordered to take it down by Burnie City Council after it was discovered that Hodge had no approval to erect the sign.
Now Hodge has erected a second billboard, with the same symbols and the slogan ‘designed by God.’
The sign says that it is ‘sponsored by Somerset and Wynyard churches’ but the church groups behind the billboard appear to wish to remain anonymous.
This second billboard appears to be a legal billboard rented from an advertising company so it is unlikely to be removed.
Australian marriage equality advocates have called on Tasmania's churches to ‘open their hearts’ to same-sex couples and their families in response to the billboard.
‘Church groups have every right to make their views known, but they also have an obligation to open their hearts to same-sex couples and listen to how exclusion from marriage hurts and disadvantages these couples and their families,' Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson, Rodney Croome said.
‘Polls show 53 percent of Australian Christians support marriage equality and I believe this number will grow as more Christians come to see that many same-sex couples value marriage as much as they do.’
Croome called on community leaders in Wynyard to make it clear their town repudiates discrimination and prejudice.
‘Following the erection of this sign, Wynyard will rapidly acquire a very negative reputation around the nation unless civic leaders make it clear their town welcomes everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.'
Croome said he has received several complaints from residents of Wynyard, and that some residents have already written to the local council with their concerns.
‘I urge all those residents who are offended by this sign to make their concerns known to their local and state government representatives,’ Croome said.
Local MP Paul O’Halloran of the Australian Greens Party took to Facebook to express his disapproval of the sign.
‘I am very unhappy at this billboard which just appeared in Wynyard,’ O’Halloran wrote.
‘This kind of intolerance has no place in modern day Tasmania. Those behind the ad need to think about the message it sends to young people who are grappling with their sexuality, and about the shame and damage it creates.’