A Nationals senator just told anyone worried about mental health in the same-sex marriage debate to 'grow a spine'

Queensland LNP senator Matt Canavan. Source: screengrab

Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan has shrugged off concerns from the National Mental Health Commission about the impact of the same-sex marriage debate saying the debate “hasn’t been that bad” and people should “grow a spine”.

The government’s peak advisory body on mental health issued a statement today that the mental health and wellbeing of the LGBTIQ people “should be at the heart of any debate about marriage equality”, with Commission co-chair professor Allan Fels saying the debate had heightened discrimination.

“Despite the fact the majority of Australians are supportive of LGBTIQ people, unfortunately unacceptable sentiments are being expressed around the debate,” he said.

Responding to the NMHC’s comments, Canavan, who resigned as resources minister in July after discovering he was a dual Australian-Italian citizen, in breach of the Constitution, said “Can’t we just all grow a spine and grow up? The debate hasn’t been that bad.”

The outspoken Nationals senator blamed the yes campaign for any problems.

“If there’s anything to complaints to be had it’s from those who advocate yes, some of the vile tweets and statements we’ve heard from yes campaigners, but look, I can ignore that. Let’s stop being delicate little flowers and have a proper debate,” he said.

Marriage is an institution that “stood the test of time for thousands of years” and “remains a union between a man and a woman in a majority of countries – all countries in our region,” Canavan said.

Nearly one billion people live in nations where same-sex marriage is legal, since the The Netherlands led the way in 2001.

Since then Belgium, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Canada, Greenland, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Slovenia, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, the United Kingdom (except Nth Ireland), Ireland, USA, and New Zealand have followed suit.

But senator Canavan said accusations of bigotry by yes campaigners could damage Australia’s relationship with its Muslim neighbours.

“How do we go to Indonesia and talk to them in a reasonable way, cause these people are saying that if you hold a different view you’re a bigot?” he said.

Here is Canavan on Sky News.

NMHC’s co-chair Lucy Brogden said “mistruths” in the debate “are making some people feel anxious and depressed”, while international studies show marriage equality has positive effects, improving the health outcomes, mental and physiological, for LGBTI people.

“For example, same sex marriage policies are associated with a reduction in the proportion of high school students reporting suicide attempts, according to research in America,” she said.

“Another myth opponents of same sex marriage claim, is that children from same sex parent families experience poorer health and social outcomes – research contradicts this.

“Research confirms children raised in same sex parented families do as well emotionally, socially and educationally as their peers from heterosexual families.”

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