Is marriage equality really that important this election? Just ask Russia.

Although the majority of Australians are in favour of marriage equality many would agree that it is not a high priority issue and that other aspects of policy should take centre stage. But when I vote tomorrow I will be certain that any candidates I mark with the number 1 are on the record as supporting same-sex marriage. OK, so I am perhaps more personally engaged in the debate than most, but it is important that we all contribute to the continued progress of social issues in our country.

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Just take a look at Russia. Recently this European country took a step backwards in terms of human rights when it passed legislation earlier this year that essentially banned any positive discussion of homosexuality in public. There has been a small but significant reaction to this step with some calling for a boycott of the Winter Olympics next year, and high profile celebrities deciding to ‘come out’ and voice their dissent.

 But today reports are emerging that Russian lawmakers have drafted a bill that would see children being removed from parents based on a “nontraditional sexual orientation.” This outdated view, which suggests children need to be protected from exposure to homosexuality, has been lifted right out of the 1970s. Almost forty years ago some researchers tried to suggest that children with homosexual parents will themselves grow up with the same deviant sexuality and that this would be a very dangerous outcome. In fact, what forty years of research has shown is that kids with same-sex attracted parents are doing just fine, thank you very much. And the only thing that has any significant impact on their health and wellbeing is just the type of discrimination that Russian politicians are subjecting same-sex parent families to.

 Australia is at a crossroads. Our research is strengthening previous findings that kids with same-sex attracted parents are doing really well, but that they are adversely impacted by the perceived discrimination they feel when hearing the negative rhetoric that surrounds issues such as marriage equality. This is what drives my work. The ability to provide the all important, balanced evidence that policy makers can draw upon to inform essential debates in our society. Our work on child health in same-sex parent families is still in its infancy but already it has received attention around the globe as more and more countries seek to move on marriage equality. But equally we, the voters, need to understand the evidence as we go to the polls and decide who will lead our country in the coming years.

 This is why we need to move forward as a nation. This is not an issue that wears particular political colours – there are advocates and opponents on all sides. But for the sake of our children pay attention to where your first preference sits on the issue tomorrow. There are children in Russia with an uncertain future – let’s make sure we secure ours.

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