Prime Minister malcolm Turnbull has labelled Labor’s rejection of the proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage as “ridiculous”.
The opposition Labor party has resolved to oppose in the Senate the legislation allowing for the plannned public vote on the matter, effectively killing the marriage equality plebiscite.
Labor say their decision is based on concerns forwarded by LGBTI groups that the public vote will give a platform to anti-gay and hate voices, potentially risking the mental health of young people who would be faced with having their sexulality demeaned or the legitimacy of their family units put under public scrutiny, in the case of having same-sex parents, in an acutely divisive manner.
Speaking to parliament on Wednesday, prime Minister Turnbull argued that the risk to the mental health of some people was small and that the plebiscite should not be blocked through the fear that some voices in the debate will be unkind.
“Are we going to say that we may not have a public debate on a topic when it is alleged that there will be a minority, some small groups, that will act intemperately?” he said during Question Time.
“Labor’s point is to say that because they believe a small number of people will participate in the debate in an intemperate and harsh way, perhaps in a discourteous and cruel way, then everybody else in Australia, the other 99 per cent of Australians, should not be able to have a say.
“That’s ridiculous. It is completely ridiculous.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten moved to have a simple free vote in parliament to legalise marriage equality, rather than the plebiscite which he argued would demonise LGBTI Australians.
“I have been criticised by some, including members in this chamber, for drawing the link between this plebiscite and concerns about the mental health of LGBTIQ Australians,” he told parliament in response.
“I make no apologies for bringing attention to this most serious issue.”
Earlier this month, a study into Irelands succesful referendum to legalise same-sex marriage found that lesbian and gay people, and their families suffered serious emotional trauma as a result of the public debate over the vote.
Research earlier this year also found that the Yes vote had also resulted in many more young people feeling able to come out about their sexuality.