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Issue #1723      March 16, 2016

Safe Schools

Homophobic misinformation campaign

“It’s one thing for politicians to use electioneering to sledge one another but it’s a very different thing to use that same mechanism to hurt vulnerable people in the community,” said the Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt.

“This leaflet is factually incorrect and deeply damaging. A review of research in this area that was undertaken by the APS shows the children of same-sex couples are likely to be at least as well adjusted, socially, emotionally, and academically, as other children,” said Dr Liz Short, Australian Psychological Society.

Psychologists, faith leaders and marriage equality advocates have condemned an anti-gay leaflet, saying the damaging claims, including against the children of same-sex parents, show how damaging and divisive a marriage equality plebiscite campaign will be.

The leaflet, authorised by former Liberal MP and Lyons Forum founder, Chris Miles, claims the children of same-sex couples are, among other things, more likely to be unemployed and sexual victims, and to have higher rates of STIs and drug abuse.

National Director of Australian Marriage Equality Rodney Croome said:

“This is just the start of the anti-gay misinformation campaign millions of Australians will have to endure if the government spends $160 million on a marriage equality plebiscite.

“Australia can avoid a damaging plebiscite campaign, and we could have marriage equality by mid year, if parliament is simply allowed to do its job and has a free vote.

“Not only is the information on this flyer wrong, it will put the lives of young gay people and the children of same-sex couples at risk by reinforcing the message that they and their families are broken.

“In contrast to the negative tone of this material, we will continue to run a positive campaign about the importance of marriage equality and the equal dignity of all loving relationships and families.”

Dr Liz Short,who led the APS review of LGBTI parenting research, said:

“This leaflet is factually incorrect and deeply damaging. The APS’s review of research in this area shows the children of same-sex couples are likely to be at least as well adjusted, socially, emotionally, and academically, as other children.

“It also shows their mental health is vulnerable to exactly the kind of prejudice and hostility to be found in this leaflet.

“The APS opposes a plebiscite on marriage equality and prefers a vote in parliament because we fear there will be much more of this damaging misinformation.”

The Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt, who is President of Progressive Christian Voice, said:

“This kind of material is very divisive for faith communities. There are views on both sides of the conversation and neither side should be claiming to speak on behalf of all of us.

“A plebiscite is totally unnecessary and this leaflet is just a sign of what is coming, in particular in terms of the damage that could be done to young people.

“It’s one thing for politicians to use electioneering to sledge one another but it’s a very different thing to use that same mechanism to hurt vulnerable people in the community.”

Meanwhile, LGBTI community organisations in Victoria have united and called on the federal government to support the Safe Schools Coalition when a review of the program was submitted to the government last Friday.

Coming together in support of the Safe Schools Coalition, the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL), the Rainbow Families Council and the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) said our schools should be a safe place for lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex (LGBTI) students.

“Going into the last election, the Safe Schools program was supported by all sides of politics. The mental health and wellbeing of LGBTI young people should not be a political football,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor Sean Mulcahy.

“This review will only show what we already know – the Safe Schools program is of enormous benefit to LGBTI kids, kids with LGBTI parents and their peers, and should be rolled out across more schools.”

Representing Victoria’s LGBTI-parented families, the Rainbow Families Council said that the Safe Schools program creates safer schools for LGBTI children, children with LGBTI parents and their peers.

“All children and young people have the right to feel safe in their school environment, and schools need to provide learning opportunities for everyone within their community about what it means to be respectful, welcoming and inclusive,” said Rainbow Families Council Co-Convenor Amelia Basset.

“Safe Schools is a unique program that contributes to a school’s ability to create a culture of respect and dignity for all, and protect the health and wellbeing of its community. There are benefits all around; for example, kids in LGBTI-parented families feel more confident to talk about their home and family life where Safe Schools programs are running.

“Losing the Safe Schools program would not only mean an end to this critical work, it would send a devastating message to many children and young people and families that there is not a safe place for them in our schools – and by extension in our communities.”

As a community health organisation VAC said the Safe Schools program is crucial to addressing and improving the mental health of LGBTI young people.

“We know that same-sex attracted, sex and gender diverse young people are significantly more likely to have poor mental health outcomes, and that these outcomes are linked to experiences of homophobic and transphobic bullying, often within the school environment,” said VAC CEO Simon Ruth.

“The work of Safe Schools to support these young people and to create safe, inclusive environments saves lives. It’s up to all of us to stand up for the program, and for the absolutely vital work they do.”

Next article – The new contours of Latin America’s right

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