Marriage Equality: the fashion issue of this election

On Saturday in Queen’s Park, a whole bunch of people are going to support the “fashionable” notion of Marriage Equality. This crowd clearly knows how big of a trend it is and wouldn’t be caught dead in anything else. Tony Abbott recently declared that he wouldn’t support “radical change based on the fashion of the moment.”

Equal Love Brisbane, a local well-known group of fashionistas and gay activists, are holding a rally as part of a nationwide campaign to keep Marriage Equality the election issue that it is. And we would like to welcome you to our runway: the streets of Brisbane. Come dressed to impress in your Equality-promoting couture, and sashay through the streets of our city in support of the height of fashion: equal rights for all Australians.

“Tony Abbott’s statement about Marriage Equality? A fashion don’t!”

This election, make sure you stand for someone who thinks human rights are more than a passing fad. Come to Queen’s Park (opposite the Treasury Casino) on Saturday 17th at 1PM and add your voice to the the call. Equality is always in vogue!

The Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/173194766188014/

Time to Invest in Equality

Howdy ho Readerinos!

Equal Love and CAAH (Community Action Against Homophobia) are uniting in their goal to raise $5000 between Sunday July 21 and Thursday July 25 to help fund their ongoing campaign for Marriage Equality in Australia. August marks the 9th anniversary of the same-sex marriage ban, and we intend to make these rallies louder, bigger, and better than ever.

Money raised is being split evenly across the 5 Equal Love and CAAH groups in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne.

We call on you to invest in the Marriage Equality campaign in Australia either by direct deposit or Kaching.

Account details:
Commonwealth bank
Name: Equal Love
BSB: 063123
Account number:10436080

Or Kaching to phone number 0403019430 and reference Equal Love

We in Equal Love are banking on your support!

For the skeptics among you, here’s the post on Equal Love’s website:
http://equallove.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=61%3A5k-in-5-days

Marriage Equality Rally 18th May 2013

Brisbane had its Marriage Equality Rally yesterday at Queen’s Park.

With over 1000 people in attendance, we had 7 speakers –

  • Liz Ross, Author and Activist, and marched in the first Mardis Gras in Sydney in 1978
  • Graeme Perrett, Labor Member for Moreton [my apologies, I previously had Graeme down as a Candidate, thanks to Phil Browne for spotting this – twitter @palmboy4444 ]
  • Adam Stone, Greens Candidate
  • Rowan Oost and Rachel Gilmore – Trans* Activists
  • Jake Harrison – a finalist from My Kitchen Rules
  • Kat Henderson – Speaker from Equal Love
And the event was MC’d by Local documentary maker Chad St James and Equal Love’s own Kym Mead

I would dearly love to comment on the speeches, on everything! But I was simply too busy – I was manning the merchandise stall and so many people wanted things – it was all a bit of a blur until it was time to march for me to heft my trusty megaphone and bellow for all I was worth!

“What do we want? Marriage Equality! When do we want it? Now!”
“Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia’s got to go”
“Gillard, Abbott, ALP: We demand equality!”
“Homophobia: No way! We’re going to fight it all the way!”
“Gay, Straight, Black, White: We demand our civil rights!”

About halfway through, we stopped at the corner of Adelaide and Edward Streets and chalked a massive rainbow across the intersection!

Yours truly featured on SBS for 2 seconds in the National/International Marriage Equality story here (at 9:16) and the Brisbane Marriage Equality rally was also covered on Channel 7.

The atmosphere was AMAZING and the crowd marched and some of them danced their way down the streets. I can’t wait for the next one! Although I hope the Bandt/Wilkie bill passes on June 6 and we can raise awareness of other queer community issues!

See you all at the next rally on August 17th – first weekend of the (Official) Election Campaign

[Author’s note – I know some of you might have seen this before I posted the rest – I accidentally hit “Send to blog” early – whoops!]

It wasn’t so long ago…

For the 6 weeks leading up to the Gladstone Marriage Equality Rally in November, I drove everybody (not least myself) insane with blogs, posts, tweets, messages, emails, phone calls, media releases, interviews and more about the Rally.

Well guess what.  It’s Time… for Marriage Equality Rallying!

18th of May, 1PM, at Queens Park, will be Equal Love Brisbane’s Rally for Marriage Equality.

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I’ve told you before why Marriage is important to me.

We’ve seen bipartisan Senate Inquiry recommendations to legislate for Marriage Equality

We’ve seen public opinion jump to an all-time-high approval rating for Marriage Equality, with even a majority of Christians in favour.

What we haven’t seen is a public push from the leaders of the political parties for Marriage Equality, with Abbott refusing to even grant a conscience vote on the issue, despite 74% of coalition supporters saying that he should, and with Gillard granting a conscience vote and then voting against the bill.

It’s time that the Federal Government took notice of the public and recognised that this nation is ready for Marriage Equality, and the nation is saying so loudly.

It’s time. It’s past time. This should be done already, and we shouldn’t need to talk about it any more…

So come march with me and the other organisers of Equal Love Brisbane at 1pm on the 18th of May at Queens Park. Join the FB Group, and join the Facebook Event too – the QR Code below will take you to the event page.  Get in touch with Jess or Kat and ask them how you can help out. Follow @EqualLoveBris on Twitter for updates about this and other rallies. Share the QR Code and the poster, and invite all your friends to come the the Brisbane Rally.

In this election year, lets remind Abbott and Gillard that the GLBTIQ Community do this thing called voting, and at 10% of the population, we’re a demographic with some political punch.  March with us.  Lend us your voice. Tell our leaders that you’re casting your vote for Marriage Equality this year!

EqualLoveQRLg

 

Confessions of a Label Queen

I was originally going to write about recent online discussions about what to call our community, and why I like the recently suggested GSD – Gender and Sexually Diverse – or, as I’d like to write it, DiGS – Diverse in Gender and Sexuality.  But a recent discussion has brought up that old chestnut: “Why do we even need labels?  I don’t want or need to be defined or categorised. Why can’t we all just be people?”  A good question!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to “just be people”?!  I think it’s an admirable goal, for all that I fear it is not a terribly realistic one.  Here is why I think that we do need labels, and we do need a brand.  I am, in this particular sense, an out-and-proud unashamed label queen.

I have *never* worn labels – well, not brand labels, anyway.  I’ve never been the guy in Nike shoes or designer jeans. I’m turned off by paying money to walk around advertising the brand whose product I’ve just bought.  I’m talking about the labels people give other people. Labels are words with power.  Some labels have the power to unite, to empower, to include.  Others have the power to demonise, to tear down, and divide.  Labels are how most humans cope with other humans.  I think we often see each other as a conglomerate of labels with a bit of a story to bind them all together.

I used to hate labels back in high school – labels like “Gay”, “Homo”, “Religious”, “Brain”, “Nerd”, “Weird”, “Teacher’s Pet”. These labels were (almost) all true, but I hated them.  I hated them because they were used by other people to demote me, to bring me to their level or lower – I hated them because at the time, some of them were truths I denied. They became a prison, fashioned by others, built from my own being.

Now? Some of those same words are labels I have chosen. Those labels have become armour. I wear “gay, ‘mo, queer” every day, along with “Geek”, “Rounder-figured”, “Activist”, “Man”, and a host of others. Why? Because I acknowledge that these words are true representations of parts of myself.  Because long ago I decided that I would never again allow the truth to become a weapon. Because others sometimes need to see someone else who they can identify with to see that they are not alone.  That other people like them do exist and they are happy, normal people (Well, maybe I’m not a shining example of “normal” but pfft to that! I still wear “Weird” too).

I wear my labels with pride and with dignity. The mere act of choosing to put them on means that my opponents can no longer get mileage out of them. To me, this is what Jesus meant when he said “The truth will set you free”.  It’s not about believing the right thing, or learning some secret. For me, it’s the idea that living truthfully and honestly allows you to live freely.  No secrets and no lies means that you are free to live without fear that someone will expose the label you didn’t want seen.

But I wax philosophical…

Politically, I think labels are necessary. They identify us to politicians in a way they’re used to thinking – demographics and voting blocs.  Labels imply plurality. The concept that there are “gay”, “lesbian”, “intersex” etc people tells our leaders that we exist and we have numbers!   Labels are rallying points in a political and public landscape for the oppressed and their allies.  Recently One Billion Rising targeted an issue affecting a different label – “Woman” (OBR is a campaign about violence against women).  It’s a powerful label, since it applies to about 50% of the population.

It is hard to get traction when all you have is “these people” and “those people” or when your first sentence includes a 16-25 word sentence explaining who “these people” are – your audience’s eyes probably already glazed over.

Labels are what have created concepts like “The Pink Dollar” (However cynically that might be viewed) which has shown businesses time and again to treat homos and the wider rainbow community decently or their share of our fabulous finances will go to their more compassionate competitors.  Labels like “homophobe” and “transphobe” allow us to identify individuals and organisations whose ideals are in direct conflict with our very existence.

Labels give rise to communities, communities give rise to action, and actions in turn can redefine labels.  Labels like LGBTIQQA (both separately and as a conglomerate) have grown a vibrant, disparate, diverse wonderful community with events like Big Gay Day, Pride, Mardis Gras, Midsumma, and more. Labels have given rise to support groups, to statistics and to studies, to funding for LGBTIQQA Organisations. They have given rise to bars and pubs and clubs. In the queer community, labels have sprung up for subcultures, and we have busily reclaimed the labels that have been used to hurt us.

Until there is no need for that sort of community, for support groups, for legislative change, for targeted organisations, for specific events, until there is no need for any function that labels fulfil, I don’t think we can ditch them entirely.  I think we still need labels, as much as I might wish that we didn’t.

The questions that come out of all this seem to be:

  • Are our current labels serving us well?
  • Are we at a point where our community has taken actions that are causing us to redefine our labels? and if so,
  • What labels do we as a community want to wear from here on in?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I would LOVE for you to post them here on the blog so that everyone can join in the conversation, whether they’re from a Facebook group or Twitter or Google Plus or elsewhere…

Jimbo Wallace – warped again

Jim Wallace was on The Project (Seg 1: Headlines, 6:00) on the 16th of January to justify Prime Minister Gillard’s stance on Anti-Discrimination Legislation, specifically the blanket exemption for religious organisation.  Religious organisations will have the ability to fire unwed mothers, and gay people.

Wallace tells us that Gillard has assured the ACL that “Gillard has assured that religious institutes will still be able to discriminate based on sexuality, this means schools and hospitals will be entitled to fire/refuse to hire members of the LGBT community.” (OutInPerth, 17 Jan 2013)

Gillard’s spokespeople have neither confirmed nor denied this, simply stated that “we don’t comment on discussions with stakeholders.

It will come as no surprise to any of my readers that I consider Jim Wallace to be a vile man and a disgrace to Christians everywhere.  I also believe that he single-handedly does more damage to the reputation of Christianity than any other Australian figure (Though Cardinal Bishop Pell is close).

Aaaaaaanyway… during his interview he makes a few statements and I don’t think one of them is actually unassailable.

For those too busy to read the whole thing, there’s a “What can I do” section at the end.

Christian Values

Gorgi Coghlan: “Why should you have the right to fire a receptionist who uses IVF or a cleaner who lives with his girlfriend?”

Wallace: “When the church goes into the public square… it’s trying to demonstrate the values and ethics of Christ.”

The values and ethics of Christ.  The same Christ who spoke out so harshly against the pharisees?  The same Christ who purposely associated with the outcasts, the poor, and those who were discriminated against in Jewish society?  I have news for you Jimbo, you are in the public square, and it is you who is failing to show the values and ethics of Christ.

We don’t try to get employed by you…

Dr Andrew Rochford: “One of those wonderful values that I took away from Catholic Schooling was do unto others as you would do unto yourself … Surely you wouldn’t want to be discriminated against, so why is it OK for you guys to discriminate – against anyone?”

Wallace: “Well, I don’t think anyone is. All we’re trying to achieve is the same as every politician in Australia has, in that they’re not required, if they’re a Labor MP to actually hire someone who’s a card carrying member of the Liberal Party as their chief of staff.  And I certainly don’t try to get myself employed, and I’m not aware of any Christians trying to be employed in gay bars or gay institutions, and I would expect that the gay population should be extending that same privilege, same courtesy to Christians”

Can you just hear my head spinning?

There’s some dissection required here.  I’m going to leave the Politician statement for a moment, because they go further in depth in the next question. But there are a few flaws in that second statement.

The False Dichotomy:

Where you say things are one or the other, not both.  Wallace clearly believes that you are either gay, or Christian, but never both.  He is wrong.  In fact, The Project very recently did a story on Gay Christians, and I know quite a number of Gay Christians personally.

The Argument From Ignorance:

Also known by the saying that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” – an accusation that the church levels at atheists from time to time, so I would’ve thought Jim would have been familiar with it, but I digress – Just because Jim doesn’t personally know of any Christians trying to be employed by gay institutions, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t Christians employed by gay institutions.

The biggest problem with this argument is that all it takes is one person with a single data point to refute it. For example, I know a straight Christian man who is occasionally a presenter on JOY.FM – a gay radio station.  I have a Christian friend who was on the board of Working It Out Inc, a GLBTI organisation aimed at helping people accept their sexual orientation or gender diversity.  And those are two examples I can think of in the space of five minutes without any serious brain-wracking.

The False Analogy:

This is a fallacy where you take two things that are not the same and treat them as if they are.  Wallace supplies a fantastic example by suggesting that Faith-based employers and gay institutions are the same.  They aren’t.

Christian employers are some of the largest organisations in the country – They operate nursing homes, schools, employment agencies, foster care and adoption services, emergency housing, and more, all with surprisingly little oversight on how monies given to them by the government are spent.  Gay institutions are typically small, very focussed, and subject to outcomes-based funding.

If you are considering going into aged care, for example you have almost no choice but to apply with faith-based organisations.  And the same with a lot of social services.  Show me a scenario where to work in a certain industry, you almost have to be employed by a “gay institution”.  I have a vague notion that a drag queen might find it difficult, but that’s about it…

And under the new legislation, gay institutions would not be eligible to discriminate against the Christian anyway – so is he advocating that we should be able to do so?

But we don’t know it’s not a choice…

Gorgi Coghlan: “Jim, when you talk about political affiliation… If I vote Greens, it’s because I choose to vote Greens, if I vote Liberals, it’s because I choose to vote Liberals but if I’m gay that’s not a choice, so is this really fair?”

Wallace: “Well that’s arguable because we haven’t really found a gay gene.  But without opening that up, I think the reality is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights actually protects as a fundamental freedom, freedom of religion.  And amongst that is for instance in the situation of schools the right to come together in community and educate your children in the faith.  And that involves creating the environment for that.”

We haven’t found a single “gay gene” – he is correct.  But there are links between genes for female fertility and increased incidence of homosexuality, as well as connections between finger-length and sexuality.  We also have the environment in the womb and a few other factors that have been identified as increasing the likelihood of homosexuality. The American Psychological Association says that “Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”

As for his reference to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, he is referring to Article 18.

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

Article 26 states “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Article 26 would surely be a clause under which 18.3 is invoked.  And I do not believe that Religious Schooling was what was in mind for Article 18 regardless.  “Manifesting your religion in teaching” would, I believe, refer to teachings of doctrine from the pulpit, not the teaching of a general curriculum with a Christian bent.  Wallace has combined sections 1 and 4 to come to his statement.  To ensure the freedom to come together in community is to ensure the freedom to gather as a church would gather and section 4 says that you have the right to impart to your child the values and beliefs that you want to.  I do not believe that if Jim took a case to the Human Rights Commission based on his stated interpretation, it would succeed.

The fundamental freedom to practice religion ends when you impinge on my fundamental right to not be discriminated against.

Lets not talk about the help…

Charlie Pickering: “You say lets not open up that debate about choosing sexuality, but in essence we have to, in essence you’re picking and choosing on what grounds you get to discriminate against someone when it really doesn’t matter.  I’m curious to know how a gay person working at a high school answers the phone any differently to a straight person”

Wallace: “You always reduce it to the lowest common denominator – the receptionist or the gardener, but we’re talking her more fundamentally about the teachers and what they teach the children, we’re talking about the example that they set for children in their moral lives and for a Christian school for instance, it’s a very important issue”

That could be because you’re fighting for the ability to fire receptionists, gardeners, nurses in aged care facilities as well as teachers… Tell me why your exemption isn’t just for schools, or teachers in schools if that is your concern – why keep the blanket for employment agencies, aged care facilities, and all the rest?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when you take public money to provide a service to the public, that is not an opportunity for you to proselytise and show your faith.  It’s an opportunity to exercise your gifts by doing a service for the community.  And because it’s government money, you need to provide that service for and with all sections of the public.

My overall opinion: Public money, public rules. If you want to discriminate, do it on an entirely religious dollar.

What can I do?

Finally, what you can do: The anti-discrimination legislation legislation isn’t passed yet, so there is still time to influence things like religious exemptions and protected attributes.
Don’t forget to:

Queer Rights: have we become a One-topic wonder?

One thing I’ve been grappling with throughout organising GMER is – have we, the GLBTIQ community, really become a one-point group?  We have Marriage Equality rallies now, to the exclusion of almost any protest over anything else, it seems.

How odd, coming from someone who organised a ME rally himself!?

I talk a lot about ME, particularly on this blog.  But I also talk sometimes about other issues that I feel are of import to the community.  My goal with this article is not condemnation, not mudslinging, and not to detract from the importance of ME or deter support for it – but it is supposed to provoke some thought, and hopefully some responses as to how we can manage the multiple issues the Australian LGBTIQ community face.

Why aren’t we, as Australians, up in arms about the ridiculous and archaic state of Queensland’s age of consent laws?  or the Gay Panic Defence?

Where is the groundswell support for access to surrogacy across the nation and why is there no national day of action as a  statement of disgust at the Newman surrogacy rollback?

Where do we march for LGBTIQ social infrastructure services (like Tasmania’s Working It Out) which are missing in so many regional areas?

Where are we standing in solidarity, holding a vigil dressed in green for TDOR?  Where are our voices for Intersex people’s lack of adequate inclusion in the anti-discrimination act?

Why aren’t we pushing hard for a census question on sexuality or gender identity?  

None of this is to say that Marriage Equality isn’t important.  It is.  And it’s a battle that needs to be fought and won, and fought now.  What I’m left wondering, I guess, is what happens to the other important GLBTIQ issues that are getting little-to-no air time?  I always say to opponents of Marriage Equality who say “Don’t we have more important things to think about/deal with/do?” that “We’re clever people, and can deal with multiple issues at the same time.”  But are we?  Can we?  I think the answer to those is “yes.” Do we?  That I’m not so sure about – particularly in QLD we have some serious problems that Marriage Equality is not likely to fix, yet we seem to focus a huge amount of time on it.

Is it because it’s a battle we feel we can win, where others feel much more difficult?  

Is it because Marriage Equality affects most Queer Australians, where the other issues are more localised?  

Is it because Marriage Equality has an easily identifiable goal where other problems are more ethereal and harder to determine when “we’ve got there”?

Is it because we’ve started on Marriage Equality, and we don’t want to divide the focus?

Talk to me! If you can, do it on the blog so that everybody gets to see the whole conversation – otherwise things get fragmented across multiple sites and posts…  Tell me why you think this is, and how we can work to campaign more effectively on more fronts?

This is the Caped Queersader, signing off!