Senate Marriage Inquiry: Plebiscite may harm LGBTIQ community


On Thursday the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs heard public submissions on the matter of a popular vote, in the form of plebiscite or referendum, on the matter of marriage in Australia led by independent Senator Glenn Lazarus and Greens LGBTIQ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice.

Submissions were provided by panels of human rights and legal experts, organisations opposed to marriage equality, LGBTIQ health and community organisations and the Australian Electoral Commission. Many of these representatives stated their preference to be an immediate parliamentary solution, rather than a costly and drawn out referendum or plebiscite.

“For teenage LGBTI youth who may be going through the decisions as to whether they are going to come out, to be bombarded over what would be a period of months, is potentially extremely destructive,” said NSW Nationals MP Trevor Khan, a member of the NSW Parliamentary Working Group on Marriage Equality.

“We know that with regards to LGBTI youth, their rate of suicide and self-harm is something in the order of six times higher than the general population, so the reality is we are looking at the prospect of doing serious damage to children out of this debate.”

Australian Marriage Equality director Rodney Croome also made a submission on behalf of the organisation. Mr Croome and AME have been advocating for a plebiscite at the next federal election for the purpose of setting a clear mandate for Australia’s next government – though Mr Croome too said the ultimate solution would be one made quickly and in parliament.

Mr Croome is also concerned that the LGBTI community will have to endure public hatred should a public vote be drawn out over months or years. “We’ve heard already today from people who say that it will allow there to be hate campaigns. There will be offence caused and damage I fear. I have to say though, that I believe that will happen anyway.”

Dr Sharon Dane of the Australian Psychological Association provided evidence that California’s controversial Prop8 campaign, which saw the winding-back of marriage equality in the US state.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton, who opposes changes to the Marriage Act, supports a public vote so that the public have more time to discuss the issue and have their say.

“I think we’ve got to break this nexus of silence and censorship of our side of the debate,” Mr Shelton told the committee.

OIP Staff

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