The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has come out against a public vote on marriage equality, claiming it would affect the psychological health and wellbeing of the LGBTI community.

While Labor has committed to blocking Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s same-sex marriage plebiscite when it hits the Senate, the looming threat of a public vote has been hanging over Australia for quite a while.

This has caused many in the community to worry about the homophobia that would be given a national platform in the months leading up to a prospective vote.

APS President Anthony Cichello said there’s evidence a plebiscite would present significant risks to the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people, given the stress of a public campaign.

“The APS fully supports full marriage equality for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said.

“But not by means of a popular vote.”

Evidence from a suite of studies has shown that in the process of putting marriage equality to a public vote, gender and sexually diverse people suffer higher levels of negative emotions than positive ones.

It has also shown that they experience significant distress over the negative rhetoric, display increases in psychiatric illness and feel negative, depressed, lonely, disenfranchised, and powerless.

Children and the family members of LGBTI people are also adversely affected by public displays of discrimination.

In their statement the APS said marriage equality is a human rights issue and should be a matter for Australian law and our parliamentary system – not a popular vote.

They added that denying people the right to marry based on their gender or sexuality is discriminatory and places them unfairly as second-class citizens.

The APS has previously come out in support of the LGBTI community, after recently recommending that mental health practices affirm the experiences of trans people in Australia.

Turnbull’s plebiscite legislation will likely be debated and voted on in the Senate at the start of next week.

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