The Project's send-up of this anti-gay marriage ad is a sign of how divisive this debate could become

Photo: The Project/ Network Ten

Channel Ten’s evening comedy current affairs program The Project specialises in producing talking points that go viral and last night was no exception.

Just 24 hours after the Coalition for Marriage aired a controversial TV advertisement as part of the “no” campaign against same-sex marriage, The Project produced a parody version that has the yes side laughing and enraged no voters who have accused the show of left-wing bias, facism, bigotry and bullying.

And plenty of people who said they’d vote yes have also taken the show to task for its skit, saying it fails to respect those choosing to vote no. Other threatened to boycott the show, while others said the parody was disrespectful and swung them in favour of the no camp.

Just 18 hours after the send up was posted on Facebook, it has been viewed nearly 300,000 times, been shared nearly 4,000 times and attracted more than 1000 comments.

The original 30 second ad featured three mothers concerned about sex education in school and linking it to the upcoming postal plebiscite on same sex marriage.

The Coalition for Marriage claims the ad plays “an important role in helping Australians understand that saying ‘yes’ to gay marriage would mean saying ‘yes’ to radical gay sex education in schools” and is fundraising from supporters saying they need $35,000 a day to keep it on air..

It features one mother claiming her son was told her son “could wear a dress to school next year if he wanted” – a claim denied by the principal of the school allegedly involved, Frankston High, who said “it never happened”.

Another mother claimed year seven children were asked to “role-play being in a same-sex relationship”.

Labor leader Bill Shorten called the ad “offensive and hurtful to LGBTI Australians and their families”.

Education minister Simon Birmingham called the ad a “patently ridiculous” conflation.

“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,” Senator Birmingham said.

“That’s just not going to happen. This is a simple issue, and it should not be conflated with other issues.”

Last night on The Project co-host Peter Helliar said he had the raw tapes from the ad and it was “amazing what ends up on the cutting room floor”.

Here’s the equally controversial response to the original ad:

The show spliced its own responses into the original responding to claims by the mothers featured.

Sydney doctor Pansy Lai, who last year campaigned against the Safe Schools program, features in the ad, saying “When same-sex marriage passes as law overseas these type of programs become widespread and compulsory”.

The Project features a woman responding “Where? North Korea? Have you checked Snopes, ’cause that sounds like bullshit”.

In response to claims of same-sex role-playing, The Project inserted a woman responding: “Was it a school play of Brokeback Mountain? That’s a huge ask to expect anyone to top Heath Ledger’s performance.”

The skit appears to have entrenched views on both sides of the debate and inflamed rather than calmed concerns on all sides. While the High Court may yet rule against the postal plebiscite, the response to The Project’s treatment of the issue is a small sign of just how divisive and polarising the debate could be over the next two months if the vote goes ahead.

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