Warnings Sounded Over Marriage Equality Debate

By Andrew Heaton

(image via Olivie Law)

Australia’s marriage equality debate could have serious mental health impacts, the nation’s body in charge of mental health has warned.

The National Mental Health Commission has expressed serious concerns about the potentially detrimental impact which the marriage equality debate may have on some members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) community.

In a statement, Commission Co-Chair Professor Alan Fels raised concerns that members of the LGBTIO community would face increased levels of discrimination and insults as the debate progressed.

“Despite the fact the majority of Australians are supportive of LGBTIQ people, unfortunately unacceptable sentiments are being expressed around the debate,” Professor Fels said.

“LGBTIQ people have been experiencing damaging behaviour in their workplaces, communities and in social and traditional media.

“The Commission is alarmed about the potential negative health impacts these debates are having on individuals, couples and families who face scrutiny and judgement.”

The Commission also sought to address what it said were misconceptions being put forward by opponents of same-sex marriage in regard to notions about children of same sex couples experiencing poor social and health outcomes.

The available research, it said, suggested that children of same-sex couples are just as well off from a social, educational and emotional perspective as children of heterosexual couples.

The warnings come as the Australian Bureau of Statistics begins its mailout of forms for the postal survey on marriage equality.

Not all, however, share the Commission’s concerns.

Speaking on Sky News, Nation’s Senator Matt Canavan expressed frustration that there were too many pressures which were stifling robust debate on the issue.

Canavan said that if anything, much of the disrespectful dialogue had been perpetrated by those advocating in favour of marriage equality.

But he said people could choose to ignore any vile which is put forward.

“Can’t we just all grow a spine and grow up …?” Canavan said.

“… Let’s stop being delicate little flowers and have a proper debate.”

In its position paper on marriage equality, the Commission raise concern about the potential negative health impacts which the marriage equality debate will have on individuals, couples and families as it says they are exposed to continued scrutiny and judgement.

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