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Postal Vote: A Survival Guide For LGBTQ Families

The marriage equality debate is going to get nastier.

14/08/2017 7:00 PM AEST | Updated 14/08/2017 7:00 PM AEST

A voluntary postal plebiscite on marriage equality is coming to your mail boxes, in spite of concerns that fierce campaigning will endanger the mental health of vulnerable people in the LGBTQ community.

That's assuming it doesn't get shut down by the High Court, of course.

What's more, the Turnbull Government's optional survey will be conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which means that the normal campaign rules around deceptive and misleading material won't apply.

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The vast majority of research indicates that the children of LGBTQ parents fare no worse than those of heterosexual couples.

This is to get around the Senate, which voted down a compulsory marriage equality plebiscite for the second time last week.

But it means there will be few checks and balances on the kinds of advertising and campaign material that can be published by either side of the debate.

So, volunteer advocacy group Rainbow Families has released a plebiscite survival guide, providing ten practical ways LGBTQ-parented families and the parents of LGBTQ youth can help their kids stay resilient in the face of potentially savage campaigning.

"We know from campaigns such as in Ireland that families are at the forefront of the debate. LGBTIQ parented families, and in particular the children, will be vulnerable to the harmful and hostile attacks of the 'no' campaign." Co-Chair of Rainbow Families Vanessa Gonzalez said.

Rainbow Families' first piece of advice is to remember that, while deceptive and misleading campaigning may be allowed, no one is allowed to discriminate or threaten someone based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

This became illegal when the Sex Discrimination Act was amended in 2013.

Labor Senator Penny Wong delivered a blistering address last week, where she decried the "hatred" that would be spread by the 'no' campaign if a plebiscite on same sex marriage went ahead.

Fairfax Media / David Mariuz
Senator Penny Wong and her partner Sophie Allouache with their baby daughter Alexandra in 2011. In Parliament last week, Wong delivered a blistering address condemning the "hatred" espoused by 'no' campaigners in the marriage equality debate.

Wong is the first openly gay female politician in the federal parliament and has two young daughters with her partner Sophie Allouache.

She said that the Australian Christian Lobby had described the children of same-sex couples as a "stolen generation".

"We love our children, and I object... to being told that our children are a stolen generation. You talk about unifying moments. It's not a unifying moment. It's exposing our children to that kind of hatred," she told the Senate.

But despite this, Wong has urged LGBTQ advocates not to boycott the postal vote.

The guide suggests that LGBTQ-parented families counter this negativity by sharing stories of love with their children and talking to their teachers and other parents to ensure children have a safe, supportive environment.

Advice For LGBTQ-Parented Families:

Remember, we are all citizens -- Everyone has the right to an opinion, but not to express it in a way that threatens you or your family. Discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status has been legislated against since 2013.

Spread love -- Remind your kids that they are more than what others say or think. Set the tone of debate with them by sharing stories of love and possibility.

Get informed -- Knowledge is power. The vast majority of research indicates that the children of LGBTQ parents fare no worse than those of same sex couples and they're not in psychological danger.

Practice self-care -- You and your kids don't have to watch every ad or read every news story. You can turn off the TV, and you can walk away from conversations that make you feel unsafe.

Create supportive environments -- Talk to your kids' teachers, carers and other parents. Reach out to other LGBTQ families. Create supportive networks where your children can feel safe and supported.

Support the 'yes' campaign -- Donate money or time to organisations fighting for marriage equality, write to your local MP or talk to your friends and neighbours about why marriage equality is important to you.

The advocacy body also suggests monitoring children's exposure to the 'no' vote campaigning in the weeks ahead.

"You and your children don't have to watch every ad or read every news story," the guide reads.

"You can walk away from conversations that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Switch off and do something you love."

Other advice for parents includes remembering that you don't have to engage in every debate -- especially if it's not constructive; donating money or time to groups who support marriage equality; writing to your local MP; and reaching out to other LGBTQ families to create supportive, safe networks for your children and young people.

You can read the full survival guide on the Rainbow Families website here.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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