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Today’s SMH, Australian and Age newspapers feature GetUp advertisements criticising the Government’s stance on marriage equality and recent calls for a conscience vote on the issue.

The ads center around an open letter from Paul Martin – Principal Psychologist at Brisbane’s Centre for Human Potential, with 25 years experience counseling young gay and lesbians – making the connection that exclusion from the Marriage Act reinforces negative beliefs about being gay or lesbian and causes psychological distress to many same-sex attracted Australians.

“We can no longer pretend that institutionalised discrimination against same-sex attracted individuals does not contribute to this devastating problem,” Mr Martin wrote in the letter. “Given the psychological impact that institutionalised discrimination has on members of our community, it simply doesn’t make sense for there to be anything short of a united vote in favour of marriage equality.”

Mr Martin uses the story of 17-year-old Robert, a patient, to illustrate the point.

“After a courageous and difficult decision to come out to his family, he talked about feelings of gay relationships, and therefore gay people, being seen as unworthy,” Mr Martin said. “Hearing the message from our politicians that gay people ‘aren’t good enough to marry,’ led him into even deeper depression, as he personally dreams of being with someone for his entire life.”

Gay and lesbian Australians are four times more likely to have ever been homeless, twice as likely to have a high level of psychological distress, almost three times as likely to have had suicidal thoughts and four times as likely to have attempted suicide (Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007), “National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing”).

“Research demonstrates that these statistics are due to ‘minority stress’ and negative beliefs about same-sex attraction absorbed from an early age, including the common belief is that same-sex relationships are not as valid or healthy as heterosexual counterparts,” Mr Martin said. “When leaders publicly state that same sex couples should not be able to marry, this sends a powerful message confirming these negative beliefs and the impact is an increase in psychological damage.”

“Emerging evidence suggests that state-wide campaigns to deny same-sex couples legal access to civil marriage are a significant source of stress to the lesbian, gay, and bisexual residents of those states and may have negative effects on their psychological well-being.”

“Research also shows the children being raised by same-sex parents psychologically benefit when their parents relationships are validated,” Mr Martin said. “The Government has done well to recognise the importance of mental health care by increasing budgetary funding, but for it to truly support such initiatives and end discrimination, it must support full marriage equality.”

The newspaper ads follow a GetUp petition calling for change to the federal Marriage Act, which yesterday hit 100,000 signatures, and now stands at 114,910.

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Contact: GetUp’s Paul Mackay on 0415 182 402 or Paul Martin directly on 0419 00 55 55