#RainbowVotes the most important in recent history

The 2016 Federal Election to be held on Saturday 2 July is one of the most important in recent memory for LGBTI communities.

In the lead up to the Federal election NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW GLRL) is calling on all parties to make a commitment to end discrimination and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians.

NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said “For the health, wellbeing and safety of our communities, it’s paramount that we ensure LGBTI issues are among the top of the agenda this federal election and we make our #rainbowvotes count”.

NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft said that politicians needed to recognise the importance of equality to a large number of Australians. “Now is the chance for us to show federal politicians the increasing number of voters that include equality for LGBTI people in deciding how they vote”, Pycroft said.

As a part of the #RainbowVotes campaign involving 9 organisations including the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, an election questionnaire covering 11 key topics has been sent to major parties, micro parties and key independents. Areas of focus include LGBTI youth, discrimination, ageing, foreign affairs, gender diversity and intersectionality. Responses will be published and distributed widely to voters ahead of the July 2 election.

The NSW GLRL said one of the key election asks will be taking action to reduce violence and harassment against LGBTI students and ensuring that young LGBTI people feel safe at school.

“We’ve seen the attacks on Safe Schools clearly having an impact. NSW LGBTI people ranked mental health and safe schooling as issues of high importance to them in our survey. We are calling for all parties to take steps to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia occurring in schools.”

Foy also said another key ask of the parties will be to increase engagement with the LGBTI community through a Commissioner with specific responsibility for LGBTI rights, a party spokesperson on issues relating to the LGBTI equality, and a whole-of-government LGBTI Ministerial Advisory Group.

“In the current political climate, there is a demonstrable need for a Commissioner with specific responsibility for LGBTI rights.

“We’ve seen the success that LGBTI Friends of Parliament cross party working group can have in the reform process in NSW. We also see the success in Victoria, of the Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality who is making strong inroads in helping Government and private organisations to be more inclusive and understanding of the needs of LGBTI people. We believe this is a model the federal parties should consider adopting.”

Pycroft also said that anti-discrimination and vilification laws were also a high priority for NSW LGBTI people.

“It is concerning that despite advances in policing and anti-discrimination protections, LGBTI people in our communities and survey still consider discrimination, harassment and hate speech to be an issue of high importance. We have no federal vilification protections against hate speech and this is a grave concern.

“With many exemptions still in place, this election is an opportunity for political leaders to demonstrate their commitment to equality before the law.”

On health, families and young people, the NSW GLRL said research shows that LGBTI people can have poorer mental health outcomes.

Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said “We’ve seen an increase in people reaching out for mental health support as the conversation on a plebiscite continues, Safe Schools continues to be attacked and LGBTI refugees continue to be persecuted. We need to make sure that there are safety nets in place to ensure that appropriate care, support and access is afforded to all people. We want to see radical hospitality afforded to all members of our community.”

The NSW GLRL will also continue their calls for marriage equality. Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft said “Changes to the Marriage Act in 2004 meant increased discrimination and prejudice against our community; it was a statement which said that our love is not equal. We will continue to fight for a free vote in parliament, and for the passage of marriage equality. 70 per cent of LGBTI Australians do not support a national vote on marriage equality. It is unnecessary, costly and potentially harmful to young or vulnerable LGBTI people and their families.”

With the electoral rolls to close on May 23, the NSW GLRL is urging LGBTI communities and ally’s to make sure they #enrolforequality, in particular those who are eligible to vote for the first time.

“By enrolling now and making sure those around you are also enrolled, you can help us show the Government that Australians everywhere believe in fairness and equality for LGBTI people – and will ‘rainbow vote’ for it,” Foy said.

Community members can enrol online at http://www.aec.gov.au/enrol

The full questionnaire (and impending results) can be found at http://www.glrl.org.au/rainbowvotes

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