By Taylar Amonini
With the federal election now a little more than a month away, another national vote could be following: the controversial plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
While a new Labor Government would scrap the plebiscite, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised it would be held in the back half of 2016 if the Coalition is re-elected.
Although polls have indicated a plebiscite could be a step in the right direction for marriage equality, various groups are encouraging the Coalition to consider the financial and health impacts on the community.
“Poll after poll has already shown that the Australian community wants the government to legislate for gay marriage,” says Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam.
“It was a Tony Abbott brain fart, dying tactic they threw out there and now they’re stuck with it.”
The Australian Electoral Commission has estimated the cost of the plebiscite to be $160 million, however accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers says it will cost closer to $525 million.
“This money could be better spent elsewhere,” says It Gets Better AU/NZ director, Freya Heathcote.
“The government is not bound by the result of a plebiscite, we need a referendum to make a difference.”
In 2014, Crosby-Textor, the Liberal Party’s major political strategy group, released research results showing that 72% of the Australian public support same-sex marriage already.
Fears of discriminatory media and anti-gay campaigns coming out in the lead up to a plebiscite are also a significant concern for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and/or intersex (LGBTI) community.
Anti-plebiscite groups point to the distribution of pamphlets containing, inaccurate and extremely conservative information.
US research has shown that the mental health of LGBTI people suffered significantly during referenda debates on marriage equality, whereas in states without referenda there was no increase.
“LGBTQI youth already face a lot of discrimination and prejudice from extremists and we worry that this plebiscite will just make it worse and increase the already high rates of mental health problems,” said Ms Heathcote.