Voting YES for Marriage Equality

Limbr strongly believes that all Australians - and all people everywhere - should be treated with acceptance and respect, and that same-sex marriage equality is an important step towards achieving this goal.

As a mental health startup, we are seriously concerned about the mental health impact the current debate on this issue is having. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA+) Australians experience significantly higher rates of suicide than those who identify as heterosexual. They also experience higher levels of depression, anxiety and general psychological distress.

According to new research published in JAMA Pediatrics (Journal of the American Medical Association), the legalisation of same-sex marriage in some US states has been linked with a drop in the number of gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers who attempted suicide. The research looked at suicide attempts by sexual minority kids in 47 states in the US. It found that in the 32 states that permitted same-sex marriage, there was a seven per cent reduction in suicide attempts.

"We estimated that, each year, same-sex marriage policies would be associated with more than 134,000 fewer adolescents attempting suicide."

Lesbian, gay and bisexual adolescents are nearly five times as likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and according to the research, it’s all about stigma. That is, denying same-sex couples the right to wed sends a message that they don’t deserve the same rights as other couples.

“Policies preventing same-sex marriage constitute a form of structural stigma because they label sexual minorities as different and deny them legal, financial, health and other benefits that are associated with marriage,” the research said.

Later this year Australia will likely be holding an unwarranted, expensive and divisive nationwide postal survey on whether same-sex marriage should be allowed. We here at Limbr are strong opponents to this postal survey.

Normally, Parliament would legislate on matters within its power without directly consulting the people. But the same-sex marriage issue has been referred to the people by way of a national survey - not a plebiscite - which is voluntary, non-binding and non-compulsory.

Furthermore, not only does the survey have no legislative underpinning, it is being conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), a body that does not normally conduct national ballots. Indeed, the budgeted $122 million cost of the ABS-run postal survey is under challenge in The High Court, which is due to be heard on September 5 and 6.

If the survey proceeds, ballot papers will be sent to electors on September 12, with responses to be in by November 7. Results would be announced on November 15.

To all those in the LGBTQIA+ community - we hear your voices of passion, anguish, exhaustion and rage. We're so sorry you have to put up with this, and we know you deserve much better.

We wish Limbr was up and running during these trying times to provide a safe space to be real, receive peer support and connect you to well-matched mental health services, but we’re working on it! Switchboard Victoria is a community based not for profit organisation that provides a peer based, volunteer run support service for LGBTQIA+ people and their friends, families and allies. There are also other services out there providing online help such as BetterHelpBeyond BlueHeadspace, and 7 Cups of Tea, and we encourage you to find one that suits you.

Finally, if anyone reading this is not yet registered to vote, or you've recently changed your address, please ensure your details are up to date with the AEC - it only takes a few minutes. We implore everyone to vote YES to marriage equality if the postal vote does proceed - we should never be complacent with demanding equality.

(Photo of Bisexual, Transgender and Pride flags by Chris Bentley and shared under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.)