Despite the fact that the power to legislate to deliver equality rests clearly with the Parliament, the Australian Government intends to proceed with a postal survey on the level of community support for marriage equality. This is contrary to the comprehensive advice that has been provided to the Government that such a survey will be divisive and harmful.
As I have written about previously, a popular vote on a matter of equality is inherently discriminatory and disrespectful. I share the feelings of hurt and anxiety that many of us in the LGBTIQ community feel in response to this move.
Aside from my own feelings of frustration and anger, my greatest concern and sorrow is for the many vulnerable members of our community – the young people, children and those who already carry the burden of significant mental health impacts from living in a community that for too long has persisted with antiquated, misguided and discriminatory beliefs, attitudes, policies and practices towards them.
Aside from the in principle indignity of this process, as the leader of a health service I am also acutely conscious that the public debate that has already begun about the postal survey will unequivocally increase incidents of vilification, discrimination, and potential hate crime. These individual instances will contribute to an overall experience of alienation and exclusion that will send us backwards on the decades of work undertaken by the community to reduce marginalisation, and to empower and acknowledge LGBTIQ people as equal, contributing and worthy members of our broad and diverse community. Furthermore the debate itself will allow for the public, widespread airing of views that devalue and challenge the worth and validity of families, lives and experiences, unequivocally making everyday life much harder for all LGBTIQ people and especially those who are already vulnerable. It’s a situation that makes me profoundly sorry.
Of course it is possible that the High Court will rule that this postal survey cannot proceed, and that would be an ideal outcome. However should the postal vote go ahead, then the ensuing weeks will be a test of the support of the broader community for we LGBTIQ folk.
For this reason alone, none of us should underestimate the vital importance of participating in the debate and the survey. All across Australia in workplaces, homes, gyms, bars, clubs and schools this topic will be discussed, and it is absolutely vital that those of us that care, make sure we are contributing to making this an experience of affirmation, solidarity and community support.
For people who are feeling personally affected by this vote, I urge you – take care. There are excellent survival strategies available for you to use, such as this guide from ACON. Counsellors are available through QLife and Switchboard, phone service open every day between 3pm – Midnight 1800 184 527; Lifeline 13 11 14; and BeyondBlue 1300 224 634.