In Public Opinion by Clyde Mooney

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Paddy Coughlan’s Botany View Hotel is seeing a social media brouhaha over a highly controversial mural painted on the pub the day of the news – and vandalised the same night.

Social activist artist Scott Marsh began the large mural depicting former PM Tony Abbott embracing Cardinal George Pell the morning of the same-sex marriage announcement, confident the divisive ABS poll conducted over recent months would return a Yes.

More than 60 per cent of participants indicated a Yes response and Marsh pre-empted this with a contentious depiction of Abbott in a wedding dress and sash, his hand down the pants of a shirtless and tattooed muscle-bound Pell, who is feeding Tony a bottle of Grange with a protruding penis straw.

This is not the first political painting by Marsh, who famously depicted ‘Casino Mike’ and another of a gay Abbott marrying himself.

Just as the same sex marriage debate polarised people wanting equality regardless of sexual orientation and those who see marriage as a covenant of religion, the Botany View’s new wall evoked both lovers and haters.

A vitriolic Facebook rant urged people to harass the pub and post 1-Star reviews on its page, prompting over 1,000 such reviews within 24 hours and so many abusive calls staff were forced to leave the phone off the hook.

What an [sic] absolutely disgusting people you must have running your pathetic leftist hotel! The disgusting display that you people allowed to be painted on the side of your wall is a true testament to the pathetic mindset of you vile leftist people.” – Aaron Givian, Facebook

But at least one fanatic took the criticism further, pelting paint at the effigy of Pell in some form of religious protectionism. The following day the backlash went further still, a group of men seen painting black over the mural.

Newtown is not only famously pro-LGBTI, it has a proud history of street art and activism, and the defacing of the mural is seen as by some as an assault on free speech.

Locals fought back, posting a flood of 5-Star reviews on the Botany’s Facebook page and flocking to the martyred pub.

Meanwhile, Canberra couple Nick and Sarah Jensen are waiting to see if the legislation goes ahead, amid their very public promise in 2015 they would be getting a divorce if gay marriage became legal.

A Facebook event (without an actual date) ‘Celebrating Nick & Sarah’s divorce’ has attracted over 100,000 interested attendees, although it is unclear how many are celebrating the stance against SSM and how many the turmoil.

The highly religious couple intend to continue to live together, call each other husband and wife, and “God willing” perhaps even have more children, but without the piece of paper saying they are ‘married’.

Despite not meeting the burden of eligibility for a divorce, the Jensens remain defiant that “conscientious objectors” like themselves should be able to easily rid themselves of a marriage issued under law.

Ironically, their ‘sinful’ de facto relationship would become what gay couples have traditionally been forced to accept.

It is widely forgotten that the SSM debate has only become an issue since John Howard opened Pandora’s box in 2004 by unceremoniously inserting reference to a ‘man and woman’ in the marriage Act.