Australia may never know the human cost of the same-sex marriage postal survey, Magda Szubanski has said.
In a wide-ranging speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, the actor and high profile “yes” campaigner criticised the survey and said the divisive campaign had damaged relationships and likely cost lives.
“The LGBTIQ community were used as unwilling human guinea pigs in a political experiment,” she said.
“We may never know the exact human cost of this experiment. Causality may be hard to prove. But anecdotally we know.
“The truth is some of us did not survive this process.”
She said LGBTIQ mental health groups and helplines had reported a dramatic rise in calls during the campaign period.
“The suffering and harm caused by such an unnecessary process means despite my initial euphoria and gratitude I would never wish this process on anyone else,” she said.
“One woman told me how ashamed and humiliated she felt when her son asked her what the debate was about.
“She had to explain to him that she and her partner were not allowed to get married but that there was a national vote and after that, she and mummy might be allowed.
“There have been good outcomes. One friend told me that although she’s been out for many years, she’s never held her partners hand in public. The huge ‘yes’ vote finally made her feel safe to do so.”
Magda said public wedding ceremonies in particular held a special significance to gay people.
“Through the dark times when homosexuality was still illegal, we had to hide our love,” she said.
“In a hostile world, our intimate relationships were our sanctuary. Only in the privacy of our own bedrooms did we feel safe.
“Without any kind of public commitment or recognition, our love for one another is vulnerable, though every bit as real.
“I think the idea that someone would love you so much that they would stand up and say it for all the world to hear is one of the most beautiful things ever.
“I’m 56 and I have never experienced that – except when my avatar Sharon Strzelecki married Shane Warne.”
Magda said she personally held no animosity towards average “no” voters but blasted the “malicious” leaders of the campaign for their dirty tactics.
“I resent that they’ve manipulated and exploited religious and ethnic minorities,” she said.
“Instead of gently guiding them in the ways of pluralist democracy, extreme elements have deliberately reinforced prejudice and ignorance.
“They’ve recklessly driven a wedge between these people and mainstream Australia, leaving them stranded and even more vulnerable.”
Shortly after Magda finished her speech, the same-sex marriage bill was passed in the Senate 43 votes to 12, paving the way for a final vote on the reform next week.
Asked whether the result justified the survey, Szubanski said a different path should have been taken to finally achieve marriage equality.
“Knowing that 62 per cent of people wanted this is an amazing feeling, but would I trade that for the suffering? I don’t know. Who can make that call?” she said.
“If a vote like this is ever put to the people again, I plead with you: do it better than this was done.
“We were thrown to the wolves… The hate speech regulations that were hastily flung together did nothing to stop the torrent of lies that were told about us.”
Magda Szubanski’s full speech can be viewed on ABC’s iview platform here. If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.