My guilty pleasure

Every now and then, I debate fundamentalist Christians on some topic because I feel like something with a little more intellectual zing than Will & Grace or Daria but don’t actually want something outright constructive.

I had a long blog post about one such debate I had on the ACL Facebook page.  Specifically their post on their webcast “Defining Marriage”.  Then WordPress ate it.  I refreshed the conversation to start again, only to find the following comment had been added:

Jesus died on the cross for all our sins, so as sinful as you view the behaviour of those who are not heterosexual, they will still be side by side with you in heaven so long as they believe in God. So I suggest you get along with them on Earth because you will be spending all eternity in Heaven with them. God Bless.

Don’t you just want to reach out and give this guy a hug (and not just because he’s saved you from a long post)?  I know I do. Thank you!

Proposed surrogacy laws a clear attack on LGBTI rights

According to this article (Sydney Morning Herald) It is believed that the proposed changes to the Surrogacy Act 2010 (A bill I am yet to read and cannot so far find) will not only de-regulate altruistic surrogacy, meaning that there are no legal protections for parents, but that it will criminalise it, when it is for singles, same sex couples, and de-facto couples of less than two years.  This comment does come from Cameron Dick, who was QLD Attorney-General for the Bligh Government, so it may be an overstatement.  I doubt it.

Labor’s Surrogacy Act 2010 decriminalised altruistic surrogacy – A situation where a woman does not receive “a payment, reward or other material benefit or advantage (other than the reimbursement of the birth mother’s surrogacy costs)” (Quote from Surrogacy Act 2010 Section 10 – Meaning of a commercial surrogacy agreement)  Commercial surrogacy agreements are still illegal.

So the Labor Act provides all people an avenue to have children and raise a family, regardless of gender or marital status, provided they can find someone who is willing to do it out of the goodness of their heart.

The LNP’s changes (again, according to Cameron Dick) will penalise same sex couples or singles seeking to be parents through altruistic surrogacy with a jail sentence of up to 3 years.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s Wendy Francis comments and spouts the usual drivel on Friday 22 June: “This is the right thing and is in the best interest of the child, something the state is bound to uphold under the UN Convention on the rights of the child” – At least they have the decency to comment only on the issue at hand.

Not so much FamilyVoice Queensland or the Australian Family Association, according to this Sky News Article

FamilyVoice Queensland and the Australian Family Association earlier this month said surrogacy rights for gay couples was the next battlefront, after winning changes on same-sex unions.

Isn’t enough enough?  Haven’t you queerbashed the community sufficiently, Religious Right? It’s clear that ACL and the Fundamentalist Christian Right want to return to the days when gays were not recognised, that it was illegal.  I wonder if it’s possible for a federally recognised de facto relationship to be grounds for imprisonment under a State Criminal code…

As for Newman’s pre-election promise that surrogacy laws would not be touched?

The Star Observer quotes Newman as saying:

Over the whole 12-month period of the campaign I never at any stage had had any advice on the matter because it had been dealt with back in 2010

Frankly, the mistake was not understanding what my MPs had been discussing.

You can’t tell me this doesn’t ring alarm bells.

This statement of Newman’s (Yesterday) leaves us with two interpretations:

  1. He’s telling the truth: Our premier is supposed to be able to run a state, but he can’t even make sure he’s across his own party’s policies before an election.  He obviously heard his MPs discussing this – otherwise he wouldn’t be telling us he wasn’t “understanding what [his] MPs had been discussing.”  He would have said he didn’t know it was being discussed. Or,
  2. He’s not telling the truth.  He’s been caught in a situation that is at loggerheads with statements he made mere days before the election.  The only way he can make these two situations line up is if he pleads ignorance.  He would probably have been better off using Howard’s “Non-core-promise” line.

Either way, we still couldn’t trust him, but we’d never be able to draw the conclusion that he’s either admitting that he is inept or lying to us.  (additional interpretations are welcome)

It’s because I’m used to being hated/loathed/attacked…

A friend of mine posted on FaceBook today: “Apparently, the slippery slope of same-sex marriage is so slippery that soon people will be marrying plants :/ Is that the best argument you’ve got?”  He was attacking statements made about the Coalition’s dissenting report in relation to the Senate Committee Report handed down two days ago.

There were some jokes about this because frankly, what else do you do? How do you argue against marriage equality leading to vegetable marriage?

Jokes like: “Does that mean say I marry a plant, then kill said plant, I will be up for murder?” or

“People have been marrying vegetables for years… It’s typically referred to as Tasmania… or in more recent times, QLD…” (This one was from me as an ex-tasmanian now-queenslander)

Eventually we got to a real discussion: (reproduced below)

A: “Maybe it was hyperbole?”
B: “It was hurtful hyperbole.”
A: “From the above conversation, it doesn’t look like it hurt that much.”

Well, I have something to explain:

I deal with statements and suggestions like this frequently.  In bad periods (like right now) I seem to deal with it daily.  I simply don’t have the energy to get angry and rip people’s heads off every time I hear it, or things like it.  I deal with the concept of “same-sex marriage leading to marrying pets” in comments to news articles on same sex marriage probably at least weekly.

We as human beings often defend ourselves with humour.  Because when we can make ourselves laugh, we are less likely to cry.

I don’t curl up into a ball in distress, I don’t fly into rage, I don’t burst into tears, or attack you, or often, even correct you.

When you say something derogatory that hurts, I do often turn it into a joke, typically because I don’t have the energy to do anything else like confront you over it… A confrontation won’t be worthwhile, won’t achieve a good outcome, etc.  I smile, or I ignore it, and I think “You bigoted…”

I shouldn’t need to wail in distress at every hurtful word for you to realise it might be hurtful. That wouldn’t be “manly” of me. You might even suggest it’s “gay”.

Senate Committee into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010

So, momentous occasion, the Senate Committee into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 came back with a bipartisan decision in favour of marriage equality!

Now, as promised, I’m going to deconstruct the report for you as much as I can (I’m no lawyer) – All references are within the document of the report unless otherwise noted

The Recommendations are at the end of this article – the report was passed 4-2, with 1 Labor, 2 Liberals, and one Green supporter.  There was one abstention.

There is also an additional from the senators who disagreed, explaining their position.  Their position was not endorsed by the committee at large, and does not constitute a recommendation from the inquiry.

Arguments

in support of marriage equality are as follows (p11):

  • marriage equality will address the inequality and discrimination that same-sex couples confront in not being able to marry, noting that many same-sex couples value and wish to be able to participate in the institution of marriage;
  • same-sex couples have a right to marry and a right to non-discrimination at international law;
  • intersex and transgender people should be recognised in the definition of ‘marriage’ in the Marriage Act;
  • marriage will provide psychological and health benefits to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people;
  • there is increasing public support for marriage equality for same-sex couples, due to the recognition of marriage as a life-long, voluntary commitment between two people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity; and
  • marriage equality for same-sex couples is recognised in an increasing number of overseas jurisdictions.

The Arguments against marriage equality (pp 26-27):

  • marriage is, and should remain, between a man and a woman;
  • children need both a biological mother and a biological father;
  • the Marriage Act, as currently drafted, is not discriminatory;
  • there is no ‘right to marriage’ for same-sex couples; and
  • marriage equality for same-sex couples is a ‘slippery slope’ to the recognition of other relationships, such as polygamous relationships, as marriage.

Most of these arguments need no further explanation, however there are a couple I would like to explore and critique.

Public support:

I recognise that for these things to get through, politicians need to value them.  In theory, this means that people should value them.  But we elect our officials in the belief that they can and will make right decisions on our behalf, whether they are popular or not.  Howard’s GST springs to mind as an example of a decision that was not popular, but was right.  Marriage equality is right. Having popular support really shouldn’t be a valid argument.  It should be something that encourages politicians to act, but it is not an argument for or against marriage equality in itself.

“marriage is, and should remain, between a man and a woman” (p26)

When I first encountered this statement, my reaction was that this was a position statement and not an argument at all – It is a statement of the status quo and an iteration that the arguer believes the status quo should stay in place.  Reading the report further, however, reveals that the statements supporting this argument are inherently religious, to the point that there was no submission referenced arguing for this position which was not from an organisation heavily associated with either Judaism or Christianity. (pp27-28)  Proponents of Marriage Equality point out that marriage is not an immutable institution and same-sex marriages are shown to have existed in Ancient Rome, Spain, and China.(p29)

the Marriage Act, as currently drafted, is not discriminatory

People in support of this statement point to the Same Sex Law reforms in 2008, granting same-sex couples de facto status. (pp33-34) Family Voice Australia suggested that “Marriage law prohibits children from marrying, which could be described as ‘discrimination’ on the basis of age.” and “prohibits close relatives from marrying, which could be described as ‘discrimination’ on the basis of kinship…Recognition of reality is not unjust discrimination.” (p33)

The committee’s response, (section 4.5, p51) sums up my response to this: “The committee strongly believes that providing true equality means that all couples should be treated ‘equally’ – ‘separate, but equal’ is simply inadequate. ”

Response

“allowing all couples access to marriage – regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity – will only strengthen the institution of marriage, and increase its value and importance.” p51

Marriage equality is about rights and removal of discrimination

While “the Australian Government’s same-sex law reforms in 2008 represented significant progress in removing discrimination against same-sex couples,… those reforms do not, in fact, provide the full equality to which same-sex couples are entitled.” (p51)

“true equality means that all couples should be treated ‘equally’ – ‘separate, but equal’ is simply inadequate. Marriage is about two people in a committed and loving life-long relationship, and it has nothing to do with sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.” (p51)

They also noted that Marriage Equality has profound positive implications for the mental health of GLBTI individuals(p52) , and that the issue could not be “dismissed simply as an issue being pursued by a minority group” (s4.7, p52), that they “received evidence and submissions in support of marriage equality from a broad and diverse range of organisations and individuals, including parents and friends of same-sex couples, churches and church leaders, politicians, groups representing young people, and mental health experts.”

Marriage is a secular institution

“Marriage in Australia is a secular institution available to both religious and non-religious heterosexual couples. Ministers of religions are able to solemnise marriages – but they are not obligated to solemnise all marriages.”(p52)

The committee found that “marriage equality for same-sex couples is not an inherently religious issue”(p52) and “that it is important that religious objections to marriage equality for same-sex couples are not given disproportionate weight in this debate.”(p53)

Evolution of marriage in modern society

The committee recognised that traditionally in Australia, Marriage is between a man and a woman, but that “tradition can never be used as an argument in favour of maintaining discrimination” (p53)

Impact of marriage equality on children

“The committee does not agree with arguments presented during the inquiry which suggest that children always ‘do best’ with married, biological parents. There appears to be no scientific basis for assertions that LGBTI persons are less fit to become parents than heterosexual couples.” (p54)  Instead they found that “there is substantive empirical evidence that refutes absolutely the arguments about children ‘doing better’ with heterosexual parents.” Making reference to two separate studies by the Australian Psychological Society and the American Psychological Association.

Marriage equality for same-sex couples is not a ‘slippery slope’

There’s just no evidence that this will lead to legal recognition of polygamous/polyamorous relationships. (p55)

Public support for marriage equality

The increase in public support was noted, but it was emphasised that the committee’s decisions on the issue were not based solely on public opinion.  Elsewhere in the report (s1.44, p9) they note that these submissions are not simply a numbers game, despite what both sides of the debate suggested during their campaigns.

Conscience vote on marriage equality legislation

“While the committee is strongly supportive of the principle of marriage equality for same-sex couples, it also recognises that marriage equality is an issue which provokes strong and impassioned sentiment in the community.” “Against this background, the committee would like to comment on the issue of a conscience vote in the parliament on the issue of marriage equality. ” “historically with respect to votes on legislation to amend the Marriage Act, political parties in Australia have allowed members of parliament a conscience vote on the issue. It is also interesting to observe that, up until 2004, every piece of legislation related to marriage which has come before the federal parliament was designed to expand the opportunities for marriage and to extend protection to people in a marriage-related environment.16 The three bills before the parliament – Senator Hanson-Young’s Bill, the Bandt/Wilkie Bill and the Jones Bill – also attempt to remove current limitations in the Marriage Act to expand the opportunities to marriage to same-sex couples. Accordingly, the committee considers that it would be in keeping with tradition for political parties to allow their senators and members a conscience vote on these bills.”

As an aside: the aberration in 2004 is where the Howard government enacted the amendment to the Marriage Act explicitly stating that marriage was between “A man and a woman” as well as precluding any recognition of same-sex marriages overseas as marriage.

The Recommendations!

  1. The committee recommends that all political parties allow their federal senators and members a conscience vote in relation to the issue of marriage equality for all couples in Australia.

  2. The committee recommends that the definition of ‘marriage’ in item 1 of Schedule 1 of the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 be amended to mean ‘the union of two people, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’.

  3. The committee recommends that the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 be amended to include an application, or ‘avoidance of doubt’, clause which expressly provides that the amendments made by Schedule 1 of the bill do not limit the effect of section 47 of the Marriage Act.

    (Section 47 of the Marriage Act is the section which states that a celebrant is not obligated or required to solemnise a marriage against their wishes.)
  4. The committee strongly supports the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 and recommends that it be debated and passed into law, subject to the suggested amendments set out in Recommendations 2 and 3.

Dealing with Newman – A mental process.

Under the Newman administration, the LGBTI Community has suffered blow after blow.  This started with the defunding of QAHC – amid suspicions that this was retribution for their active push for same-sex marriage based on concern for the mental health of their clients.  Then we had the Civil Unions Act watered down as much as possible.  Then we were told that surrogacy would be the next to go.

On Friday, I felt depressed and saddened, a sense of gloom and hopelessness stretched out before me.  They were doing this to me and there was nothing I could do about it…  I considered moving to Melbourne, or Sydney, or back to Tasmania… But over the last two days I have realised that this is not true and a move is not needed.  There is hope.  There’s a good possibility that after three years QLD will wake up and oust the LNP from its parliamentary roost (especially after Newman announced he’s axing approx 20000 jobs from the public service).  There’s a possibility that the Federal Government will legislate around same-sex marriage and render the state discussion pointless.   There’s even a possibility (however remote) that the LNP will shake off its arch-conservative religious shackles and be a force for short term economic might (which they arguably already are) as well as providing the required infrastructure for Queensland’s ongoing prosperity and the necessary leadership to show that Queensland, well, appreciates its Queens…

These things can only happen if people stick around to push for them.  While LGBTI people pour out of QLD in response to ACL/LNP policy, it makes it harder for those who stay to make an impact.  While the Queer community stays obscure enough that “Walking backwards to Broome if there’s a homosexual in my electorate” isn’t met with “Well you’d better get walking” immediately, while GLBT individuals fail to stand up and be counted, nothing will ever change. (Which is not to say you shouldn’t leave if you don’t feel you can cope)

I’m staying in Queensland.  For all its faults, I like it here. I refuse to be chased out by a politician who cannot stand on his own beliefs and call for Same sex marriage to be made legal.  I refuse to let other GLBTI people be bullied by a callous and uncaring government without standing up and saying “No more!”

I am here. Things will get better. They will get better because I am here, and I am speaking out.  If we all speak out together, rise up with one voice, then we will be heard, and things will get better.

An attitude of Thankfulness

This year, I’ve taken up an opportunity to reflect on each week and post (on Facebook) some of the things I am thankful for.  A friend of mine came up with the idea – she posts one thing every day.  For me, a week helps me find a number of things, but I’ll usually aim for at least 7 items.

Some weeks are easier than others, and I expected this week to be one of the hard ones.  Surprisingly, given the recent legislative changes, this was not the case.

I am thankful:
For dependable friends who contact me regularly – I treasure our conversations.
For friends I can count on to bitch about the government with over Gin – I treasure *our* conversations too.
For the Internet, that shows me the LNP/ACL way of thinking is NOT the way of the the rest of the world.
For friends across the country who send me baked goods, and who I send baked goods to – It’s a fun way to try new things and I love it!
For workmates who understand and sympathise with my situation in relation to the government.
For being able to determine what I want to happen, or not happen, and then having the guts to say so.
For being able to look past a short-term benefit to see a long-term loss, and acting to prevent it.

I am thankful for being gainfully employed in a position strongly related to my degree. I am thankful that I enjoy my work, and that I work with some fabulous people.

I am thankful.

This was the content of my weekly post on Facebook, and I’ve decided that I should include it here.  I would like to encourage you to join me in being thankful – it’s something I try to do on a Sunday night, about 7PM – I’ll be posting it here from now on as well.  If you’d like, I’d love to see the things you all are thankful for, let me know how I can find you!