Bill repeal will traumatise gays: psych

Published: December 20, 2011

Repealing laws allowing same sex couples to form civil unions will cause psychological damage to gays and lesbians, a psychologist says.

Independent Queensland MP Rob Messenger on Tuesday announced he would put forward a private member’s bill after the state election to repeal the same-sex civil union bill passed recently by Queensland parliament.

Brisbane-based psychologist Paul Martin, who specialises in counselling gays and lesbians, says Mr Messenger is "retraumatising" gay Queenslanders.

He says the opinions of leaders have a profound impact on vulnerable gays and lesbians.

Mr Martin cited a 17-year-old client who recently attempted suicide after hearing Prime Minister Julia Gillard say on television that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

His gay client had been struggling with the belief that it was terrible to be gay and hearing the prime minister’s comments had tipped him over the edge, Mr Martin said.

"He said, ‘In that moment I realised that all the things I believed were actually quite true’," Mr Martin said.

"When society and leaders in some way do something that sends a message that gay and lesbian people are worthless or their relationships are not valued or valid, what it does is it actually confirms those beliefs," he said.

Gays and lesbians were four times more likely than heterosexual people to commit suicide, he said, adding that the passing of the civil union law would have had a massive positive impact on the psychological wellbeing of same sex attracted Queenslanders.

"If you then repeal that what you’re doing is saying that actually no, your relationships are still not valued, you’re not capable of having good, healthy, long-term relationships and in fact your relationships and who you are is worthless."

Mr Martin said there was evidence that negative rhetoric from conservative politicians during same sex marriage debates increased psychological distress in gays and lesbians.

Rob Messenger’s bill was dragging the issue back into the spotlight and encouraging the airing of more negative statements, he said.

"What he’s doing is he’s now retraumatising people, he’s distressing people again, and there’s no need for that," he said.

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