A Winston Hills couple hopes to change the mind of federal MP Alex Hawke ahead of a vote on the proposed same-sex marriage plebiscite.
The parents of a gay man now in his 40s, Pamela and Arthur Garske, are calling on federal politicians to stop a bid for a plebiscite by the Turnbull government, arguing it will encourage hate-speech from those opposed to same-sex marriage.
“We don’t call it same-sex marriage – we call it equal rights,” Mrs Garske said.
Their son was bullied while at school and suffered long-term mental health problems as a result.
“He had his bag upended many times and the other kids called him gay… this was in 5th class,” she said.
“And he came home and asked me, ‘what does that mean?’ In my ignorance in those days I thought if I told him it would make him gay, so I just said, ‘it’s a derogatory term and just ignore it.’
“But of course, when they hear it yelled at them day after day after day, it becomes too much to bear.”
Mr and Mrs Garske now volunteer as support workers for parents and friends of LGBT people who face stigma. They fear for the mental health of young LGBT people and their families if an anti same-sex marriage campaign is launched.
“Homophobia doesn’t just hurt the LGBT community – they also have parents and it hurts them to hear derogatory terms used about their children,” Mrs Garske said.
“We’ve had awful things written on our letter box – our daughter was attacked at the bus stop.”
But of course, when they hear it yelled at them day after day after day, it becomes too much to bear.
Mr Garske believes bigoted views will be given free reign if a plebiscite is announced, along with $170 million in funding to go towards campaigns for and against same-sex marriage.
“It’s just under the surface, simmering,” he said.
The opposition has suggested it will vote down the controversial proposal, citing the $170 million cost and impacts on LGBT people. Parliament will resume next week, when a vote is expected.
The Garskes have written to Mitchell MP Alex Hawke, asking to meet with him to explain their view. They have yet to receive a response.
In a comment to the Hills News, Mr Hawke said he supported the plebiscite.
“Given the difficult history of this issue over the last 10 years this is an issue best resolved by the Australian people,” he said.