Same Sex Marriage Act 2012 (Tasmania) Debate, Day 1

Well!  I’ve spent an evening listening to a number of intriguing speeches from the Members of the Legislative Council of Tasmania.  There were no real surprises here, with Ruth Forrest, Kerry Finch, Craig Farrell, and Rob Valentine announcing that they will be voting yes, while Vanessa Goodwin, Greg Hall, and Tania Rattray have announced a “no” vote.

I unfortunately missed Kerry Finch and Greg Hall’s speeches.  I look forward to reading them in the Legislative Council Hansard soon.

According to this handy dandy guide to the Legislative Council on the issue of Same Sex Marriage, the most interesting revelation so far has been that of the Honourable Member for Aspley, Tania Rattray.  It so happens that were I still in Tasmania, I would be in her electorate.  She spoke well on the whole, made some points I agreed with, but I was frustrated with her speech.  I couldn’t figure out where she was headed at times.  A few of her anti-SSM arguments were cringeworthy, speaking to an incredible lack of understanding.

  1. Let’s put it to a Referendum, we’re having a Federal Election soon anyway
    I don’t feel that I as a member of the general public should need to remind an elected official of the purpose of referendums in our nation.  But apparently I do (and posted such to her Facebook wall)  Referendums are not for the enactment of legislation, but are there for the Australian people to approve changes to our Constitution.  If we were giving the state exclusive right for marriage legislation, that is a referendum item.  Should two men or two women be able to get married? Nope, see, it’s a change to an Act of Parliament.
    Frankly, I think the referendum argument is to get her pro-SSM constituents off her back.  But she’s exposed that her knowledge of Australia’s legal system is not up to a primary school standard here.
  2. What do we teach the children?
    I was flabbergasted when I heard her read the letter from the teacher asking “how do I teach about marriage?  What do I teach kids about normal healthy orientations?”  You teach them that when two people love each other so much that they want to spend the rest of their lives with each other, they can get married.  And as for “normal healthy orientations”, I would be very upset if a teacher took it upon themselves to suggest that any loving relationship between two consenting adults might not be healthy or normal.  As a teacher, you teach them that “Some dudes love dudes”, “some chicks love chicks”, “some people are straight”, and there is nothing wrong with any of that.  Or, if you aren’t in a mood to deal with angry parents beating down your for because you dared say it’s OK to be gay, tell them to talk to their parents about it.
  3. Same sex marriage would not be recognised outside of Tasmania.
    You just said that there are no fewer than three states waiting to see how Tassie goes with this before they jump on board, and that’s why you were treading carefully.  And that presumes that the other states don’t just accept the Tasmanian marriages off the bat (which I’ll be expecting QLD to do, but I hope they’re alone.
  4. No-one knows how the High Court would decide.
    So no-one will pass the bill because the High Court could go either way.  But the only way to get this indication is to have a high court challenge brought against  said legislation.  Anyone else seeing the catch-22?

Unfortunately, Rattray’s No vote means that unless the remaining three unknowns say yes, and one no changes their mind, the bill will fail.  I’m tipping it’ll fail 6-9.  Still, not a bad margin!

Until I see tomorrow’s stuff, that’s me for the day!

Marriage Equality Amendment 2012 defeated.

Sadly, I write this article to announce that the same-sex marriage bill introduced by Labor MP Stephen Jones was defeated in the lower house this afternoon.  42 votes to 98…  The ACL issued a seriously mis-titled media release (ACL welcomes end of marriage debate) today in response.  “I would like to thank the Opposition for keeping its election promise and for all those members of Labor who, as a matter of conscience, voted to ensure that marriage remained between a man and a woman,” Mr Wallace said. “ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said it had been a long debate and he believed the vast majority of Australians were keen to move on”.  This is true.  We are keen to move on.  We want you to stop perverting democratic process and permit this bill which has majority public support to pass.  This is not the end of the marriage debate.  In fact…

Debate continues over the Marriage Equality Amendment (No 2) 2012.  I’ll be doing another highlights/lowlights article over the next couple of days…

A little more encouragingly, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has resigned as Abbott’s personal parliamentary secretary after incredible (and justified) backlash over comments that legislating for marriage equality could lead to demands to legalise bestiality and polygamy.  The Liberal leader stated “They are views that I don’t share.  They are views that many people will find repugnant,” and that Bernardi had made “ill-disciplined comments” and “had compounded the offence by repeating the comments on radio this morning.”

The result of a conversation between Bernardi and Abbott?  Bernardi’s resignation as secretary – he still holds his Seat in the Senate.  Credit where credit is due however, Bernardi’s departure has created enough space that it requires two members to fill his shoes.

Abbott further states that “While I have consistently advocated a position that the Coalition should keep its recent election commitment to maintain marriage as a union between a man and a woman, I will not tolerate comments that are offensive to people in same-sex relationships,” and that “While the Coalition has a policy position not to support changes to the Marriage Act, the Coalition has a proud history of opposition to discrimination in any form and as Leader of the Opposition, I will not have this record undermined.”

Thanks to the Sydney Morning Herald for having the best of the Bernardi Story in one convenient place!
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Results of the Hansard for 17 Sept

I said I’d take a look at the Senate Hansard for 17 Sept when it came out, and here it is.  On Marriage Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012, there were eight senators who spoke.    Some were amazing, others were saddening, and Sen Ronald Boswell was outright disturbing.  I cannot believe he truly represents his electorate.

SA Senator Sarah Hanson-Young of the Greens (And of Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 fame) was eloquent, and absolutely unsurprisingly, she was Pro Marriage Equality.  She emphasised how far we had come, explained that this was a logical extension of the Menzies philosophy of anti-discrimination (Menzies introduced the Marriage Act 1961 to ensure that all states treated interracial marriage the same.)  She challenges Gillard to actually articulate her reasons for opposing marriage equality and accuses Gillard and Abbott of jointly blocking progress.

QLD Senator and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, George Brandis.  Who said “Some say it is an issue about discrimination. It is certainly a question about the meaning of marriage.  But let us not forget the context here.  It is also a debate about dishonesty.”  He points out that Gillard promised that she would not move to change the definition of marriage in her 2010 election promises.  He suggests that the Labor party simply revel in doing whatever they want regardless of their promises, pointing to the Marriage Amendment Bill and their elation at passing Carbon Price as evidence.  He goes on to attack Senator Hanson-Young on the views of “people like [her]” i.e. not on her views at all.  Brandis winds up saying that he believes that legal discrimination against people on the basis of their sexuality  ended in the 2008 legislative changes allowing Same-sex couples to qualify as “de facto”.

Dear Senator Brandis:  There must be a field somewhere missing its scarecrow – your argument against Hanson-Young’s sincerity by pointing to others of the progressive left is clearly a straw man…  And as for the Labor party elation thing, maybe they’re happy that they’ve been able to do the right thing… either way I would advise the Party of the Non-Core-Promise to be careful about throwing stones…

WA Labor Senator Louise Pratt… She deserved and got a post to herself

WA Liberal Senator, Chris Back lost in his first paragraph: “It states that marriage is ‘a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’. These words of course go back to the earliest known writings.”  Wrong.  Quite recently (~2000 years ago in Western cultures, and still today in many arabic nations) marriage was seen as the union of one man and many women.  To the exclusion of women the man has not and does not marry (unless the woman is barren, in which case her servant may be suitable or any number of other cases) and any other men.  He fails further by suggesting that being unable to get married to the person I love is like being unable to call myself Senator because I feel like it.  This is fallacious.  I can go through the motions to become a Senator;  I cannot go through the motions to have my relationship recognised as equal! He also suggests that we use propaganda.  For once, the Honorable Senator Back is correct.  We do.  We use material to present and promote or propagate our views among the rest of the populace.  We use form letters to communicate our will to our politicians. No wonder you see “slogans” such as “I support marriage equality and I urge you to do the same”… it’s part of a form letter – if you can’t understand the concept of a form letter, how did you get into Parliament! We use these tools in exactly the same ways our opponents do.  From us you see propaganda along the lines of “Equal Love, Equal rights”, from opponents of marriage equality, propaganda such as “Children need a mother and a father”.

Tas Senator Christine Milne, Leader of the Australian Greens, announced again her support of Marriage Equality.  She reiterated that discrimination is taking place.  She exposes the two lies that appear over and over in this debate, that children will be denied information about their biological parentage, and that ministers will be forced to conduct same sex marriage.  She explains, clearly and simply that both of these scaremongering falsehoods are outright lies.  She put forward that she believes the timing of the bills to be a political ploy to get Gay Marriage off the table before the election.  She denounces the ALP for kowtowing to Joe de Bruyn and the SDA Employees union.  She attacks Brandis for dragging the Carbon Price into the marriage equality debate.  She slams Abbott for denying his party members a conscience vote. And she states that the Liberal party have moved to the right of Genghis Khan.  Senator Milne ran out of time before making her closing statements.

WA Senator Mark Bishop of the ALP speaks on “issues of importance and priority, issues of equity, social justice and discrimination, and issues that go to the heart, the very nature, of the marriage relationship.”  Importance and priority, he suggests that the lobbying and correspondence he has received on the issue of marriage equality “is not on any significant scale at all”  Dear residents of Bishop’s seat, might I request that you bury him in correspondence, requests to meet, and lobbying in the coming weeks.  He plays the “I have gay friends” card and argues that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal in this country. He says that marriage equality impinges on the rights of children.  He finishes up saying that civil unions should be enough in a secular society and that that is proper, but traditional marriage should stay exactly that.

QLD Senator Ronald Boswell, of the National Party: Oh how I’ve been looking forward to this part of the Hansard. What we see from our senator is unadulterated, disgusting sexism and homophobia.  “Two mothers or two fathers cannot raise a child properly. Who takes a boy to football?”  I say Parents. “Who tells him what is right from wrong?” Parents. “What does he do—go along with the two mums?” Yes. “How does he go camping and fishing?” With his two mothers, who are equally as capable of erecting a prefab structure as a male parent. “And what about a young girl changing from a teenager into a young woman? Is it fair to say to her, ‘You don’t have a mother; your mother can’t take you shopping’ or to not be able to help her understand how her body is changing?” No, it’s not, and frankly, if a man doesn’t understand at least on a basic level how a woman’s body changes, society has failed him, at some point he completely missed out on basic personal development education.  Telling of his basic opinion in his *shudder* speech is the following statement:

“Once you have gay marriage in law, you have normalised the law, you have normalised homosexual marriage in law, which forces the normalisation of homosexual behaviour in the wider culture”

You read it right. “forces the normalisation of homosexual behaviour in the wider culture” – How could we possibly think that normalisation of homosexual behaviour is a good idea.  Oh wait!  Isn’t that exactly the case the pro marriage equality side have been putting forward, that it normalises homosexual relationships?

Finally, “There is absolutely no discrimination against gay people other than the discrimination between heterosexual and same-sex marriage.” So the Honorable Senator Boswell states unequivocally that he recognises the discrimination exists.  He actively states that he recognises discrimination exists and he is actively campaigning to maintain it.

Last to speak on this topic was WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert whose second sentence was this:

We really demean marriage when we use it in this way to discriminate and act prejudicially towards some members of our community.

She really pokes at Bishop’s statement about not being important enough for correspondence, once at the start, and again later when she talks about the Senate Inquiry for Hanson-Young’s Marriage Equality Amendment Bill.

There were 75,000 submissions recorded—the highest on record for a Senate inquiry, I believe.

She talks about the impact of gay marriage in other countries, points out that their societies are still very much intact, if not better off.  She restates the Greens’ ongoing commitment to marriage equality. and finishes by stating that:

All we are asking for is to treat same-sex couples equally. That is why it is called marriage equality.We will be supporting this bill because it is what Australians want and, in particular, because it is the right thing to do, so that the very important institution of marriage does not discriminate, does not judge, does not show prejudice against one section of our community. I will certainly be supporting this bill. I believe that our older political parties also need to be showing that leadership and supporting this bill.

 

I encourage you to read these speeches for yourselves.  I’ve condensed about 2 hours 30 minutes of speeches into two shortish blog postings.

Debate on Marriage Equality Bill (Aka Louise Pratt is awesome!)

Today saw some fantastic events on the Federal Marriage Equality debate.  I’m yet to read the Hansard from today (It’s not yet published) but aside from seeing what else was said, I look forward to a transcript of WA Senator Louise Pratt’s incredible speech, where she drove home that marriage equality is personal.  It might not be personal to the people who oppose it, but it’s absolutely personal to queer families.  I encourage you to view her amazing effort below.  Nothing I say about it will do it justice.

Which is not to say that I won’t try…  “I, like thousands of Australians was hurt and dismayed when the Federal Parliament back in 2004 took steps to entrench discrimination into our nation’s Marriage Act”

I am amazed and so pleased that Senator Pratt is able to display both her emotional attachment to the issue – there are a number of times where she appears to choke up, and a few times where her voice trembles – But she also manages to make her case strongly without relying on that emotional connection to carry her words.  To me, her speech is a display of things that our parliament and politicians are sorely lacking – Personal connection, integrity of position, and passion on an issue.

She says, echoing my thoughts through the years, “I think it is one of the bitterest, bitterest ironies of this debate that historically gay people have been stigmatised as promiscuous and immoral, while being denied by the law the right to demonstrate the importance and consistency of their relationships in the way that any other Australian can.”

Louise Pratt’s speech – honest, clear, eloquent, and coming from the heart – made me cheer in my seat.  I do not know whether her words will change lawmakers’ minds in Canberra, but I firmly believe that her words are worth spreading to the wider community, as I believe that she can connect with our Australian compatriots in a way that perhaps you and I might not.

In other great news, Bob Carr has announced that he will be voting for Marriage Equality!  There are 9 more votes needed to pass in the Senate, with a total of 22 wildcards including Nick Xenophon and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yet to announce their positions.

Write your members and tell them what you think.  Find out where your MP Stands

Go to Louise’s Facebook page and give her a congratulations!  Or send her a message through her official website. Or both.  I believe in supporting our supporters to the nth degree!  Go Louise!

eThankfulness – 16 Sept 2012

I’ve been trying to sell my house recently, and it’s a tumultuous journey.  Today I had an open house and it felt more like a set-back than a step forward, even though it actually was a step forward.  This post, tonight, has brought me to some realisations about my perceptions; I am thankful for the clarity and perspective that I can view this situation now.

I am not in a bad position.  I’m 27 and own a house, on my own. In this day and age, that’s a pretty reasonable achievement!

My deadlines are arbitrary, and set by me. If I fail to achieve them, is it really failure, or was I unrealistic in setting my expectations?  If I do not sell by the appointed time, I am sure it won’t be the end of the world and that I will be able to arrange something else.

I am actually in a good position.  My primary concern is the upcoming sale of my house, and not concerns over food, shelter, physical safety, or any other basic necessities for life.

So, I am thankful.  I am thankful that I am achieving financially.  I am thankful that my timelines are not set in stone, or by someone else.  I am thankful that my largest concern pales in comparison against those who are doing it truly tough.

What are you thankful for this week?

Queer tensions – I want to help, tell me how!

What happens when you take a bunch of people, selected solely on their lack of adherence to heteronormativity, to fight for a loosely defined goal like “equality”?

We wind up with disagreements over what is important.  Health reforms, Equal Rights, Justice and Police, Social Acceptance, Socialising, and Visibility to name a few.  Then we disagree over the particulars of what is most important: Even the people most concerned about health are divided on mental or physical, Disease prevention vs access to surgeries vs …  You can drill down, and the community is split a million ways till sunday.   This is normal. People are passionate about different things.  If you took any group of heterosexual people and told them to work towards some equally ill-defined goal, say… “the perfect society” you’d get similar problems.

We have this thing called the GLBTI Community, right? The only thing that binds it together is that its members do not fit a heteronormative mould, or support and affirm those who do not fit one.  We have the G and the L quarrelling over who should be first in the Alphabet Soup based on “Lesbian Invisibility”. We have ,the B, who G and L sometimes say “should make up their mind (and be G/L already)”  We have the T and I folks who are struggling with serious health issues trying to be heard, and getting frustrated with the G/L/B groups who may not even understand that they are struggling differently. Did you know there are even some horrifying G/L/B groups (such as http://www.erinyes.com.au) who are trans- and/or intersex-phobic?  This was saddening news for me to hear.

So we argue, and we bicker, and sometimes we all-out fight amongst ourselves over priorities for “The LGBTI Community”.  

Is it any wonder?  Should we be surprised that issues for people with non-straight sexual orientations are different to the issues that plague those who don’t fit the binary gender paradigm?  Should we be surprised that people are passionate  about the issues that affect them directly, yet not so much about the ones that affect the rest of the community?  Of course not!  The GLBTI community is often seen as a bloc, particularly for funding and politics, and this is simply not the case!  We are a diverse group of people from all walks of life, drawn together by a single characteristic.  Frankly, I think the GLBTI community does an amazing job of showing solidarity on its various causes.  That’s certainly been my overall experience in Tasmania, though I’ve not had so much to do with the QLD community yet.  (And yes, I know I posted that Same-sex marriage in Tas is not Marriage Equality.  I reject the notion that this is a result of ignoring T/I people, believing instead that the omission is to bolster the law against constitutional challenge.)

I think most of us try, as individual members of that community, to fight the good fight.  To support our queer neighbour.  Sometimes though, as a member of the BILTG Community, I see the infighting and the “We are more oppressed than you” statements (which may be completely true, by the way) and I wind up feeling less supportive than before I read or heard them.  I, and I suspect many others, respond better to concrete requests for assistance: “Please help us in our quest to improve access to hormone therapies by donating $10|signing this petition|contacting your MP.  You can get more information here.”  I don’t often have the time to read all the news articles I’d like relating to my passions, let alone the things that I’m not actively investigating. But if you wave it in my face, chances are I’ll go look.

The crux of my post is this: Saying “You don’t support us, even though we support you!” doesn’t help me to support you, and makes me feel defensive.  Saying “here’s a starting point, I suggest you read this site” is better – I can get acquainted with your issues as time goes by.  Best – at least for me – would be someone saying “To me, the biggest issue we’re facing right now is X and you can help by doing Y.  Please check out Z for more info.”  It gives me problem, action, and information, meaning that I and others can help you in your struggles/concerns even if I don’t necessarily understand them.  In short, help me to help you.

eThankfulness for 9 Sept 2012

This week has been one of those up-and-down weeks.  It almost feels like one of those Good News/Bad News stories.  But that’s just a good example of confirmation bias and negative experiences being ten times more memorable than positive experiences.  As a result, this eThankfulness is even more important to me than usual since it makes me focus on the good things that have happened over the last week.

This week I am thankful for:

Friends with good advice!

People who inspire me to write!  In particular, I’m grateful to Zoe Brain who inspired Same-sex marriage: Equality or not?

Friends who just drop by!

Friends who help me with various things around the house – moving furniture, lending me tools, etc

My fantastic workplace.

My readers – it’s really nice to feel that my opinions matter and garner some level of respect on an objective stage.  I love hearing your comments and feedback!

Facebook – it gives me so many issues to write about, so many ways that I can make my small contribution to the GLBTI community (and other groups and issues) by lending my voice to the collective.

Don, for today validating that it’s OK to be unable to do something.  And for reminding me that I’ve become far more self-reliant over the last year than at any time prior that he knew me.(I tried to service my own car this afternoon, but physically couldn’t get the plug out of the sump…)

I’m also thankful for funny photos, the web-comics I read, and crap TV for helping me retain my sanity by giving me an excuse to have some down time every now and then.