Rugby star claims free speech over anti-gay slur

Welsh referee Nigel Owens wrote that Israel Folau's comments could push teenagers over the edge

Folau, a devout Christian raised as a Mormon who converted to the Assemblies of God fellowship with his family in 2011, made headlines last September during Australia's debate over same-sex marriage, when he tweeted, "I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage".

Owens, who has previously chronicled his own tortuous route to accepting his sexuality, anxious the effect Folau's words would have on young people struggling with acceptance of their sexuality at this time.

Wallabies star Israel Folau has once again come under fire for controversial homophobic comments on social media.

In a tweet posted on September 13 a year ago, Folau said: "I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions but personally, I will not support gay marriage".

'Israel's comment reflects his personal religious beliefs, however it does not represent the view of Rugby Australia or NSW Rugby, ' she said in a statement.

"This is not a simple issue", she said.

Australian Rugby and New South Wales, his club side, will seek an explanation from the winger this week.

The rugby player seems unfazed by brutal criticism from fans of the team, sponsors and a pending meeting with Rugby Australia about his behaviour.

Waratahs player Israel Folau (14) at round 5 of the Super Rugby between Waratahs and Rebels at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on March 18, 2018.

A spokesperson from Qantas told Starts at 60 the company wasn't comfortable with Folau's anti-inclusive views.

The controversial views of the Australian Test star have been under close scrutiny over the past six months after he tweeted a year ago that he was opposed to gay marriage.

"There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words both on and off the field must reflect this", the policy states.

Supporters of the footballer, including the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies, have said he should be able to express his opinions on same-sex relations as part of free speech.

There was speculation Folau could face sanction for seemingly contravening rugby's inclusion policy which was introduced in 2014.

But Folau... just keeps going.

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