The anti-gay marriage lobby in Australia is urging the government to suspend anti-discrimination laws ahead of a public vote on equal marriage.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is insistent on sticking by plans for a public vote (plebiscite) on equal marriage, which will not take place until 2017 or 2018, despite a clear public consensus,

The measure has been derided as costly, bureaucratic and pointless, given anti-gay MPs insist they will not consider the vote binding either way – but LGBT lobbyists have raised a red flag about the impact of the vote.

The Australian Christian Lobby, which has led opposition to the proposals, this week called for anti-discrimination and hate speech laws to be ‘paused’ for the duration of the plebiscite.

ACL’s director Lyle Shelton told Fairfax Media that he was concerned that anti-discrimination laws could impact on “fairness” during the campaign, claiming they have “such a low threshold”.

Shelton claims the ACL does not want to make any “bigoted” arguments, and simply wants to put forward the “millenia-old” argument that marriage is “between a man and a woman”.

However, pro-gay lobbying group Australian Marriage Equality branded the proposals “concerning”.

Australian Marriage Equality exec Rodney Croome said: “It’s concerning that the ACL’s advocacy for an unnecessary plebiscite has now turned to using the plebiscite as an excuse to suspend laws that protect vulnerable Australians and to receiving public funds.

“It’s impractical and unnecessary to suspend anti-discrimination laws in every state and territory.

“Instead, both sides should be mature enough to sit down and agree on the framework for a free and respectful debate, facilitated by the Human Rights Commission or some other impartial body.

“Public funding for the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cases should be equal and kept to the absolute minimum, with resources directed instead to counselling for those people whose mental health will suffer from attacks on their basic rights.”

The ‘Australian Marriage Forum’ last year aired an ad during a Pride festival, urging people to “think of the child” about the impact of same-sex marriage.

The ad asked: “You hear a lot about marriage equality, but what about equality for kids?”

Other ads claim that same-sex marriage are just the “tip of the iceberg”.