Gareth Thomas has hit back at Australian rugby union player Israel Folau after the sports star publicly declared his opposition to equal marriage this week.

Folau, a devout Christian who is currently planning his own wedding to New Zealand netball player Maria Tutaia, revealed that he was opposed to same-sex marriage the day after postal ballots were sent to voters in Australia for a non-binding vote on the issue of marriage equality.

The Wallabies player, 28, tweeted on Wednesday (September 13): “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage.”

Folau’s were quickly pounced upon by retired Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas, who became the world’s first openly gay professional rugby union player when he came out publicly in 2009.

Thomas – who opens up about his inspiring journey to acceptance in the new Attitude Heroes podcast, available to listen to now – made his feelings clear as he re-shared Folau’s tweet with his own followers and added a biting comment of his own.

“I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions, but personally , [middle finger emoji]” the 43-year-old wrote.

Thomas wasn’t the only rugby star to make a statement in response to Folau’s remarks, however.

Just hours after Folau’s tweet was sent, his Australian national rugby teammate, David Pocks, pointedly tweeted: “When my survey arrives I’ll #VoteYes for justice and love. #MarriageEquality

The result of Australia’s postal vote on marriage equality, which will see registered voters aged 18 and over answer the question ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’ is set to be announced on November 15.

Meanwhile, you can hear more from Gareth Thomas in the latest Attitude Heroes podcast, which sees the British sporting hero discuss growing up gay in rural Wales, his long struggle to accept his attraction to men, and the pressure he experienced when he publicly came out as gay.

The former Attitude cover star also reveals new details about his first sexual experiences and his early adventures on the gay scene.

“I remember going home and facing my Mum and Dad and obviously no one had known what I’d done and I literally felt like the dirtiest person alive,” he tells Attitude.

“I’d had all these feelings for so long, but I’d never acted on it so it was suppressed, but all of a sudden it had become a reality. And it was fucking really scary, like opening Pandora’s Box.

“I thought, “Fuck, what have I done, what have I started here?” And I fucking scrubbed, literally scrubbed myself.”

Listen to the full interview with Gareth Thomas in episode one of Attitude Heroes – available to download free from iTunes or other podcast platforms now.

Attitude Heroes is produced by Wisebuddah and sponsored by the GREAT Britain campaign, which welcomes the world to visit, do business, invest and study in the UK.

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