Health services outline risks to LGBTIQ health from same-sex marriage debate

SEVERAL central Victorian community health services have signed a statement claiming the upcoming same-sex marriage postal survey poses a “significant risk” to the health of LGBTIQ people in Victoria.

Castlemaine District Community Health, Cobaw Community Health and Northern Districts Community Health were among 23 services to sign the joint statement titled “Marriage equality – a human right for good health”, issued on Friday.

It states that equity is an important factor for any community.

“As leaders within, and advocates for, the health of our communities we want our LGBTIQ clients, community, consumers, families and staff to know that we understand the sadness, anger and frustration this decision (to hold the vote) causes,” the statement reads.

“We consider that holding a popular vote on matters of equity is disrespectful and potentially divisive.

“The benefits of equity to the health of communities are well established, as are the adverse impacts of discrimination.”

The LGBTIQ community experiences higher rates of depression and suicide, arising from individual, social and legal discrimination.

These rates increase in regional communities.

A number of other regional community health organisations also signed the statement, including groups from Gippsland, the south west, and the Ballarat Community Health Centre.

Despite holding fears for the impact of the same-sex marriage debate, the 23 health services believed it could be an opportunity to highlight the issues that face LGBTIQ Victorians.

“We will promote the opportunity this debate presents to optimise the social inclusion of LGBTIQ people,” the statement read.

“We will share what we know about the vital role rights and participation play in supporting good health and health equity.

“We are confident that this public discussion will amplify the voices of those seeking more equitable and healthier communities.”

The postal survey is non-binding after the Turnbull government failed to get its plebiscite legislation through the parliament. Labor, Greens and several crossbenchers believed the resulting debate would be harmful for LGBTIQ people.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will send out voting forms in the two-week period from September 12.

The forms are due back by October 27. The result will be published on November 15,

A “yes” vote is expected to trigger a conscience vote in parliament.

Before the closing of the voting rolls on August 24, the Australian Electoral Commission processed more than 933,000 enrolment updates and received 3.3 million visits to its website.