TASA Marriage plebiscite statement

Katie Hughes, TASA President:

The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) strongly rejects the proposal to hold a plebiscite on “same-sex marriage” and recommends instead that Parliament resolve the question by free vote.

TASA is issuing this statement because we believe as Sociologists that any move which implicitly or explicitly encourages an intensification of abuse or violence, whether verbal or physical, increases the risk of adverse social and health consequences for LGBTI citizens.

Exposure to stigma and violence, as well as the fear of being exposed to it, are already common experiences in the lives of LGBTI people. Research conducted by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University reported that 61% of non-heterosexual young people had experienced verbal abuse, and almost one fifth had experienced physical violence. A survey of transgender people living in Australia and New Zealand found that almost 90% of respondents experienced at least one type of stigma and discrimination. That same study found that around 2/3 of participants changed how they behaved because they were afraid of stigma and discrimination. Research on LGBTI young people has also shown a link between homophobic abuse and mental health problems, substance abuse, and self-harm.

These experiences will be intensified during increased public focus on sexuality and gender during and after a plebiscite on the rights of LGBTI people.

The plebiscite will likely see a dramatic rise in homophobic religious discourses. Sociological research by Gahan et. al. 2014, showed that religious same-sex attracted and gender questioning young people were at a greater risk of self-harm and suicide ideation as a consequence of homophobic abuse. These young people were also more likely to feel isolated and receive less support than other LGBTI young people. The plebiscite may lead to an increase in homophobic religious discourses leaving these young people even more isolated thus increasing their risks of self-harm and suicide ideation.

Consequently, TASA believes that the debate on whether to amend the Marriage Act should not be undertaken through a protracted plebiscite process that will increase stigma, fear, and isolation among LGBTI people; but instead be undertaken by Parliament without any further delay.

References for this Statement:

  • Gahan, L., Jones, T., & Hillier, L. (2014). An Unresolved Journey: Religious Discourse and Same-Sex Attracted and Gender Questioning Young People. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 25, 202-229.
  • William Leonard, Marian Pitts, Anne Mitchell, Anthony Lyons, Anthony Smith, Sunil Patel, Murray Couch and Anna Barrett. (2012). Private Lives 2: The second national survey of the health and wellbeing of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Australians. Monograph Series Number 86. Melbourne: The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University.
  • Hillier, L., Jones, T., Monagle, M., Overton, N., Gahan, L., & Mitchell, A. (2010). Writing themselves in 3: The 3rd national report on the sexuality, health, & well-being of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people in Australia. Melbourne Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society (ARCSHS)
  • Pitts M, Smith A, Mitchell A, Patel S. (2006). Private lives: a report on the health and wellbeing of GLBTI Australians.. Melbourne: La Trobe University, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society.
  • Couch M, Pitts M, Mulcare H, Croy S, Mitchell A, Patel S. (2007) Tranznation: A report on the health and wellbeing of transgender people in Australia and New Zealand. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University. Melbourne: La Trobe University, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society.
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