Marriage equality advocates have warned that a leaked pamphlet listing the supposed negative consequences of legalising same-sex marriage in Australia is a sign of things to come if a national plebiscite on the issue goes ahead.
The pamphlet, obtained by Fairfax Media, claims the social outcomes for children raised by same-sex parents includes unemployment, sexual victimisation, sexually transmitted disease and drug use/abuse. It does not list any sources for these particular claims and it's unclear how the issue is linked to marriage given that same-sex couples in Australia already can and do raise children through means such as adoption and altruistic surrogacy.
The material also claims that "married biological parents have a better record for providing safety and development of healthy, well-adjusted adult children" and "minimise abuse and neglect of children". It cites a "Dept. of Health & Human Services USA, Report to Congress" for these claims.
The pamphlet has reportedly been authorised, prepared and funded by former Tasmanian Liberal MP Chris Miles, who was a parliamentary secretary in the Howard government.
Miles told Fairfax that the material will be distributed throughout Australia "at the grass roots". When asked if people may find the pamphlet's claims hurtful, he said:
"Lots of things are hurtful to people in Australia. Everyone hurts on a whole range of views."
Dr Elizabeth Short, who prepared a literature review for the Australian Psychological Society (APS) on LGBT-parented families, said the leaflet is factually incorrect and "deeply damaging".
"A review of research in this area that was undertaken by the APS shows the children of same-sex couples are likely to be at least as well adjusted, socially, emotionally, and academically, as other children," she said.
Australian Greens Senator Robert Simms warned the flyer is a window into the campaign being planned by opponents of marriage equality, in preparation for a plebiscite on the issue.
“During the last week we have seen a tsunami of vile homophobia fanned by people like Cory Bernardi and George Christensen. This flyer is the latest example of this ugly campaign against equality,” Senator Simms said.
“It’s clear conservative extremists are planning an ugly hate campaign levelled at the LGBTI community and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is sitting back and letting it happen.
"The Greens are concerned for the impact this kind of hurtful campaign might have on young people in particular."
The unearthing of the pamphlet comes days after conservative government backbencher George Christensen issued a graphic critique of an anti-bullying program in schools focused on gay and lesbian issues, accusing it of condoning child grooming.
The Opposition will attempt to bring on a vote on same-sex marriage in parliament this week.
Queensland Labor MP Terri Butler wants to force the issue using a cross-party bill that has sat on the notice paper for months - but it will be up to the government, which plans to hold a plebiscite after the next election.
"I don't want this to be an issue which divides the community," she told ABC Radio.