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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 2 Hansard (16 February) . .

Page.. 445..

importance forward this afternoon. The legislation of marriage equality is something that is of high importance for the ACT community, and today I would like to raise concerns I have regarding the way this debate is unfolding at the federal level, which, of course, impacts upon the ACT as a community as well. I am against Tony Abbott's plebiscite, and the majority of Australians are too. It is a ridiculous $158 million exercise which is going to provide a platform for hurtful statements and assertions to be perpetrated nationwide with frequency to the detriment of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

A 2009 study by Suicide Prevention Australia concluded that same-sex-attracted people in this country are around 14 times more likely to have attempted suicide than other Australians. This is a travesty that exists due to the ingrained and systemic homophobia and stigma which were part of our society for so long and which many people continue to perpetuate.

Madam Assistant Speaker, my uncle was a gay man. He was segregated from his friends and family in those early days of my youth. I had no understanding at all why my family could not support him. I did not know that he was gay at the time; it was much later that I found out. He passed away and I was unable to attend his funeral, not knowing where he was. It was a very sad part of my early life.

As one gay young man expressed to me:

That feeling of having to come out over and over again, and hoping the next person doesn't react badly, is incredibly stressful. It's hard. Seeing the statements about how you are sick, or need curing, or wouldn't make a good parent, they hurt. Going to school for 12 years and hearing demeaning, homophobic terms, and knowing inside that they mean YOU, it degrades your mental health.

The plebiscite gives a particularly loud megaphone to this sort of language. It will allow people expressing these views to have an even greater impact on young LGBTI people. Just today, as we have heard, it has become apparent that the Australian Christian Lobby is seeking the federal government to override anti-discrimination laws for the duration of campaigning on the issue to allow them to say pretty much whatever they like. It clearly shows the sort of language lobby groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby want to use throughout this campaign. There is no need for this expensive plebiscite. It was always a stalling tactic constructed by Tony Abbott and his mates.

Marriage equality is the sort of reform which not only has a practical legal application in regard to the rights of LGBTI couples but also has a social impact. Legalising marriage equality shows the LGBTI people of any nation that their society accepts them. It shows that their sexuality or gender identity are accepted by society as a whole and removes some of the punch from individuals who might choose to express their outdated and offensive views.

This Assembly cares about young people in the territory, and that is why we have asked that the inquiry be undertaken within the Assembly into youth suicide. The plebiscite works against the mental health outcomes of the LGBTI community and, in particular, the young people of the community who are less likely to be equipped to

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