AUSTRALIAN LGBTI leaders and politicians are urging Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to cancel the marriage equality plebiscite following the targeted mass shooting of LGBTI people in the United States.
Omar Mateen stormed the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, where he shot and murdered 49 people on Saturday night Florida time. A further 53 people were injured in a violent act that has rocked the world’s LGBTI community.
Leader of the Australian Equality Party, Jason Tuazon-McCheyne has written to Turnbull to seek an “urgent meeting” with a delegation of LGBTI people to discuss the safety and concerns of LGBTI people in the wake of the Orlando incident. He also launched a change.org petition asking the PM to stand up for the LGBTI community.
“LGBTI people are scared, I have had numerous friends email me and share how unsafe they feel at the moment,” he said.
“Many of us have received hateful emails and tweets and we don’t know how serous we should take them. After yesterday they feel more real.
“The LGBTI community is in pain after Orlando. To think that a safe community space such as the Pulse nightclub can be the place for mass murder and hate is shocking and has made us all a little fearful and scared for our own safety,” he said.
“I am bracing myself for the plebiscite and how hard that will be, but I am more worried about our son and other kids in LGBTI parented families who will be exposed to an environment that may cause massive harm.”
NSW sexual health organisation ACON is offering counselling services for people experiencing difficulties following the shootings.
“ACON has specific concerns regarding the possibility of an upcoming plebiscite on marriage equality – concerns we have expressed previously,” ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said.
The potential impact of airing hateful and negative commentary in a legitimised forum such as a public plebiscite will have serious and detrimental effects on the collective health and safety of our community.
“Given the hate-inspired barbarism committed in Orlando, those concerns are now acute and very real.”
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW GLRL) are also calling for marriage equality legislation to pass through parliament by a free vote
“We don’t need a potentially damaging ‘no’ campaign to put this issue at unnecessary risk and scrutiny,” NSW GLRL co-convenor, Chris Pycroft said.
“Recent events, as well as the existing political landscape, have seen increased attention and demands for equality for all LGBTI Australians. A coalition of organisations, including the NSW GLRL, will shortly be releasing results of the Rainbow Votes election survey, so that voters can be made aware of the policies and positions from every major party when they go to vote this election.”
Homophobic bullying, violence and intimidation still occurs in Australia according to Greens Senator Robert Simms who said they are reasons a marriage equality plebiscite should be scrapped.
“Here in Australia, as in the United States, the gay bar has always been considered a safe space and to see that space being attacked in this way, adds another distressing dimension to this tragedy,” he said.
“A plebiscite on marriage equality is so dangerous, because it’s a breeding ground for hate-speech. While we’ve seen in the days following this tragedy an outpouring of grief in Australia, we’ve also seen some homophobia bubble up to the surface too.
“We don’t need that kind of hate-speech being given a forum through a costly and divisive plebiscite on marriage equality.”
Whether it is appropriate to use tragedy which occurred on the other side of the world to enact political in Australia is not up for debate according to Tuazon-McCheyne.
“Yes (it is appropriate), because we are all humans and homophobia is worldwide and affects us all,” he said.
Parkhill agrees: “Homophobic violence is still a regular occurrence (in Australia) and there are many in our community who vividly recall the widespread institutionalised violence that occurred not so long ago.
“Tragedies like this should spark reflection and action, wherever homophobia is experienced. It is in this context that ACON would hope that the Coalition would reconsider their support for the proposed plebiscite.”
Star Observer has approached Malcolm Turnbull for comment and are awaiting his reply.