#Rainbowvotes wants to ensure LGBTI issues are among the top of the agenda during this federal election.

With the announcement that the 2016 Federal Election will be held on Saturday 2 July, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW GLRL) is calling on all parties to make a commitment to end discrimination and harassment against LGBTI Australians.  

This year’s election is one of the most important in recent memory for LGBTI communities.

“For the health, wellbeing and safety of our communities, it’s paramount that we ensure LGBTI issues are among the top of the agenda this federal election and we make our #rainbowvotes count,” said NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Lauren Foy.

The #RainbowVotes campaign includes nine organisations including the NSW GLRL, and includes an election questionnaire that covers 11 key topics. The questionnaire has been sent out to major parties, micro parties and key independents.

Areas of focus on the questionnaire include LGBTI youth, discrimination, ageing, foreign affairs, gender diversity and intersectionality.

Once the responses are collected, they will be published and distributed widely to voters ahead of the July 2 election.

NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft said it is extremely important that politicians recognise the importance of equality to a large number of Australians.

“Now is the chance for us to show federal politicians the increasing number of voters that include equality for LGBTI people in deciding how they vote.”

One of the key election asks will be taking action to reduce violence and harassment against LGBTI students and ensuring that young LGBTI people feel safe at school.

“We’ve seen the attacks on Safe Schools clearly having an impact," Foy said. " NSW LGBTI people ranked mental health and safe schooling as issues of high importance to them in our survey. We are calling for all parties to take steps to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia occurring in schools.”

The NSW GLRL also notes that another important ask will be to increase engagement with the LGBTI community through a Commissioner with specific responsibility for LGBTI rights, a party spokesperson for issues relating to LGBTI equality, and an LGBTI Ministerial Advisory Group.

The lobby highlighted the success seen in Victoria with the Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality and stated, “In the current political climate, there is a demonstrable need for a Commissioner with specific responsibility for LGBTI rights.”

Other high priority aspects for NSW LGBTI community include anti-discrimination and vilification laws.

“It is concerning that despite advances in policing and anti-discrimination protections, LGBTI people in our communities and survey still consider discrimination, harassment and hate speech to be an issue of high importance," said Pycroft. "We have no federal vilification protections against hate speech and this is a grave concern.”

The NSW GLRL has seen an increase in people reaching out for mental health support with continuing conversations about the marriage equality plebiscite, the continued persecution of LGBTI refugees and the recurrent attacks on the Safe Schools program.

“We need to make sure that there are safety nets in place to ensure that appropriate care, support and access is afforded to all people," Foy said. "We want to see radical hospitality afforded to all members of our community.”

Highlighting the increased discrimination and prejudice against the LGBTI community since the 2004 changes to the Marriage Act, Pycroft said, “We will continue to fight for a free vote in parliament, and for the passage of marriage equality.”

He noted that 70 per cent of Australians do not support a national vote (plebiscite), saying, “It is unnecessary, costly and potentially harmful to young or vulnerable LGBTI people and their families.”

Electoral rolls close tonight, 23 May, at 8pm, and the NSW GLRL is urging LGBTI communities and allies to make sure to #enrolforequality.

The full questionnaire (and impending results) can be found here.