Australia

Israel Folau defends Magda Szubanski, calls for end to online attacks

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Israel Folau has come to the defence of gay rights activist Magda Szubanski after she was targeted in online personal attacks.

Israel Folau has urged anonymous online attackers to stop their abuse targeted at gay rights activist Magda Szubanski.

As the former Wallaby’s dispute with Rugby Australia continues, a toxic online campaign had erupted against the prominent comedian.

This began after she announced a GoFundMe page in response to Folau’s own bid to raise funds for possible legal fees over his sacking.

He is expected to enter a protracted legal battle against Rugby Australia for a social media post many considered homophobic and labelled a breach of its players code of conduct.

On Twitter, the former Wallaby spoke out in defence of Ms Szubanski, calling for an end to the online attacks against the gay rights activist.

"Please stop the anonymous online attacks on Magda Szubanksi, who has entered this debate very respectfully," he said.

"She is entitled to express her views – let’s all have this important discussion with love in our hearts."

In response, Ms Szubanksi thanked the rugby star for his message calling for civility in the debate.

"Thank you Israel Folau I hope the same for you and your wife Maria," she said in a message posted on Twitter.

Mr Folau’s earlier criticised social media post had paraphrased a Bible passage saying "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" would go to hell unless they repented.

The committed Christian argues he was unfairly dismissed on religious grounds.

He is seeking $10 million in damages from Rugby Australia and wants his multi-million dollar contract re-instated.

The "ugly hate campaign" against Ms Szubanksi was first drawn to attention by journalist Dr Julia Baird.

"Jesus said to love your enemies, not troll them," she tweeted.

"If indeed anyone considers Magda to be an enemy, which makes no sense."

Ms Szubanski’s "For Love" fundraising page is seeking to raise funds on behalf of a multi-faith group.

On Wednesday, Ms Szubanski told SBS News the initiative was meant to be a non-combative response to the Folau saga.

"It has come from a group of friends and other people from interfaith, no faith, gay, straight group of people who want to show ways that we can get along.

"And try to do something that is not combative and that other people will benefit from."

The GoFundMe would support the Children’s Cancer Foundation and a group called Twenty10, that provides health, legal and housing services (among others) to people of diverse sexualities and gender identities.

Magda Szubanski is seen at a marriage equality rally in South Melbourne in Melbourne, Sunday, September 17, 2017.
Magda Szubanski is seen at a marriage equality rally in South Melbourne in Melbourne, Sunday, September 17, 2017.
AAP

Ms Szubanksi was a prominent advocate during the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia.

On Ten Network’s The Project seven years ago she opened up about her sexuality publicly saying she previously feared doing so because it could have placed added pressures on her career.

More than 20,000 people have donated about $2.2 million to help fund Mr Folau's legal battle via a campaign page set up by the Australian Christian Lobby.

The ACL effort replaced an earlier campaign on GoFundMe, which was taken down by the platform for breaching its service guidelines.

Mr Folau and Rugby Australia failed to reach a settlement over their dispute last week.

Additional reporting: AAP

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