Victorian Nationals MP and Turnbull government minister Darren Chester says he’s voting “yes” in the same-sex marriage postal vote because he wants young LGBTI Australians in rural areas to feel more accepted.
“I think it does send a strong message of acceptance,” Chester told HuffPost.
“We have rates of self-harm and suicide among young regional people which are way too high and I fear there is a link to whether same-sex attracted people feel fully supported and accepted in some communities.
“Youth suicide is a huge issue around Australia, not just in rural and regional areas, but it often has a seismic impact in a small community because people inevitably know the families involved and there is a more intimate knowledge of the individual circumstances.”
Mr Chester told HuffPost a “yes” result in next month’s postal survey won’t solve all the issues for young regional people dealing with their sexuality, but he said he thinks “if we can do anything to take the pressure off people who are feeling that they aren’t accepted in the community, it’s a good step in the right direction.”
“While I have a firm view and I will be voting yes, I recognise that in my community there will be many people who have an alternate view and this is a fair way to deal with it,” he said.
“I think it is important that people to appreciate both sides of the argument and take a respectful and moderate approach to the debate and make an honest assessment of what they think is the right thing to do.”
Voters have until this Thursday, August 24, to enrol to vote or update their details to ensure they receive a survey form.
“Any call to boycott the vote is a foolish approach. Enrol to vote. Make sure your details are correct and your address details are correct. Seek to participate fully in what is an important decision,” Mr Chester told HuffPost.
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.