Must keep marriage debate in perspective

About 16 million Australians will begin to receive their forms for the same-sex marriage survey on Tuesday.

The form will have two boxes – one for yes and one for no – in answer to the question: Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

The vote is being orchestrated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and will be conducted using information from the Australian Electoral Commission’s electoral roll. The ABS has made it very clear to use the word survey when referring to the vote. This is because parliamentarians are not required to take heed of the result when they cast their own votes following the vote. Instead the process will be used to gauge public sentiment on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Regardless of the vote being non-compulsory everyone is strongly encouraged to have their voice heard. 

According to the ABS all Australians should receive their forms by September 25. People should mail it back by October 27, and no forms received after November 7 will be accepted. The result will be announced on November 15.

What’s most important over the coming months is to ensure we have a respectful debate. One based on facts, truth and consideration.

The issue should not be clouded. Some of the arguments against same-sex marriage have been based around the legalities of homosexuality. This is not up for debate. Homosexuality was rightfully decriminalised in 1997 in Tasmania. Disappointingly, we were the last state to make this change. 

On Monday the National Mental Health Commission criticised the "potential negative health impacts these debates about marriage equality will have on individuals, couples and families as they are exposed to continued scrutiny and judgement".

The commission also noted the argument about same-sex couples having children.

“The commission notes that the marriage equality debate is not about same sex parents having children. However, many opponents to same sex-marriage have claimed that children from same-sex parent families experience poorer health and social outcomes. Research in this area contradicts such claims,” the statement said.

Regardless of where you stand or the eventual outcome, it’s important for the health and safety of all Australians that this debate remains respectful.