Rainbow Families NSW has told a parliamentary committee what it was like being subjected to the marriage equality debate last year, in a submission to the Inquiry into Arrangements for the Postal Survey.

The inquiry was established to examine the process of the postal survey, including the parliament’s protections against offensive, misleading or intimidating material or behaviour, especially towards affected communities.

Rainbow Families co-chair Vanessa Gonzalez said that postal survey was a tough time for many in our community, particularly parents of young children who were exposed to materials that painted LGBTI families in an extremely negative light.

“Even though the parliament enacted protections against vilification, and to ensure that advertising aligned with existing electoral law, those protections were not enough to safeguard our families from ending up on the frontline of a divisive debate that caused great harm to many in our community,” she said.

“Once the door was opened to this debate by the government it was our families that ended up on the frontline.”

Co-Chair Mat Howard said that children of same-sex couples were previously targeted in overseas marriage debates.

“When the idea of a plebiscite was raised, Rainbow Families campaigned against a divisive public poll, precisely because when marriage equality was debated in France, Ireland, the US and UK, the children of same-sex couples became the focus of some hurtful statements and campaigns,” he said.

“We did not want that to happen here. And we do not want it to happen to any group ever again.”

The Rainbow Families submission includes the real experiences of the LGBTI community, with stories of families receiving homophobic letters and flyers, and hateful discriminatory messages on social media including comparisons to paedophiles and bestiality.

They said children were bullied at school because of the messages other children were receiving about LGBTI families.

Rainbow Families NSW is a volunteer-led organisation providing a support network to children and families in the LGBTI community.

It aims to build a community that fosters resiliency by connecting, supporting and empowering LGBTI families, and to address discrimination and other social disadvantages.

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