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/

Conscience

Well, I know how you all love to look at my gorgeous face…  So I made another video!

This time, I’m reciting a poem I wrote about our politicians voting on Marriage Equality and the Liberal/Labor stances on the issue.

Conscience: Written and spoken by me (Dylan Carmichael):
The leaders of our capital L parties, so great,
Both are straight, and so
They vote on rights they will never use in their life.
And yet, they are rights they already have.
To have and to hold the person they love in the eyes of the state,
Something to which nothing else can equate.
A right granted simply because the one they love is different to them.
A right withheld simply because homophobes hum, haw, and hem.

Concerned about causing offence, our politicians commit one instead.
Failing to stand up for those who suffer in the daylight,
After taking away some of their rights, almost a decade ago.

And to those leaders, I say
That the time has come for you make amends for your vote to pass the 2004 Marriage Act amendment.
Atoning for the moment when the conscience so necessary to grant rights today was not consulted in the process of taking them away. On that fateful day, shut out of the chambers, your conscience ignored, overridden, not given any sway.

All that we want to hear is you raising voices together. An answer to our question that will echo through the years, prompting a flood of joyous tears from those of us who just want to marry who we love. Telling our future countrymen, who will hear that this government refused to be lead by Christian fear.

We crave a government who will right past wrongs.
A government whose final answer belongs
where it will be,
Writ large on our nation’s history.

 

God Bless the ACL!

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
One of many quotes from the ACL’s favourite book which gives me hope that, should Christianity be correct, the earth shall *not* fall to the Australian Christian Lobby…

To me it seems that the ACL are vile, spitting vipers who lash out at everyone who takes a different opinion to them – and it seems that they do this most harshly when the opinion is in the realm of DiGS (Diverse in Gender and Sexuality) rights and protections.

Just today the ACL have accused Kevin Rudd of creating another Stolen Generation, angering both gay and indigenous Australians with their insensitivity. Rudd’s decision to back Marriage Equality caused them to issue a vitriolic statement about children being “taken through technology from their biological parent” and Kevin Rudd creating another Stolen Generation if the law were to pass.

This makes me ask why the ACL is happy to permit any kind of IVF for any couples, since this same argument could be made for couples who use other people’s sperm or ova in order to conceive. This has already been going on, and the Technologically Stolen Generation is yet to appear…

They also say that “The so-called ‘marriage equality’ debate has been conducted by slogans without proper consideration of the consequences. Kevin Rudd is the latest to fall victim to shallow thinking on this issue.”

They’re partly correct – there has been a LOT of sloganism in this debate. I’m not going to say that all of it is from them – we have our fair share of slogans too. What I will say is that pro-marriage-equality slogans are typically respectful and generally do not vilify – though we call out homophobic behaviour when we see it. The ACL and anti-ME crowd however appear to have no such compunction – Jim Wallace’s statements in Tasmania during their State-based Same-sex Marriage debate are proof of that. They seem to fail to recognise, or perhaps don’t care about, the consequences of their position or statements for LGBTIQ Australians.

Then again, they don’t seem to understand how they’re being seen to be trivialising the travesties perpetrated against Indigenous Australians either. Maybe they just don’t understand compassion, empathy, kindness, humility, or many of the other Fruits of Christianity.

They claim that “All major Australian church denominations officially oppose same sex marriage”: actually, the Uniting Church of Australia site states that ‘Currently: “With regard to same-sex relationships the Uniting Church does not have an explicit position’… well that doesn’t seem like “official opposition” to me! It’s not outright support, but it demonstrates the falsehood of the ACL’s statement. And if they can’t be trusted for accuracy in an area where they should have some insider knowledge, how can we trust their word on anything not in their sphere of expertise?

I believe the community’s strongest weapon against the ACL from this point forth is simply to let them keep talking. The more they say, the more irrelevant and hateful they show themselves to be. By all means, we should respond to their homophobic tripe, but with calm and grace, facts and logic. Actually engaging with them directly only lends them legitimacy they don’t actually have.

Bless the ACL, for they shall write themselves out of social relevance, write themselves out of power, and given time, write themselves out of existence.

Death, Marriage, Property, and Funerals

Recently I was alarmed to read a story of an Australian gay couple. I sadly cannot locate the story now but it highlights a part of why Marriage is so important.

The couple (Let’s call them Jack and John, the story mentioned no names) had been together for a number of years.  Eventually, Jack passed away, dying of cancer.  The story goes on to say that within 24 hours of his partner’s demise, John was served with papers asking him to vacate their home.  He was permitted to hold a memorial, but was told in no uncertain terms that he was not to attend the funeral, held in the family’s home state.  Jack’s body was taken away, and the family ignored that John ever had a part in his life, let alone being his partner.

It’s a sad story. I can’t tell you for sure whether this specific version of it has happened here in Australia.  But it’s hardly a unique story – Something very similar happened in America

This is not something that you hear of happening to married couples.  It doesn’t happen to wives, nor to husbands.  There’s this thing called “senior next of kin” which is one of the few things that de facto status does not grant.

According to the State Library of New South Wales

‘Next of kin’ can therefore include lesbian and gay partners. Despite this, if a person in a same-sex relationship dies without leaving a will, their partner’s wishes may be ignored by the family unless the partner can establish that a de facto relationship existed. This can be an important issue for a lesbian or gay person who may want their partner rather than their family to control the funeral arrangements. For this reason, it is especially important for lesbian and gay people to make their wishes clear in a will. Even then the executor is not bound by the directions left in the will. Disputes over ownership of the body or decisions about funeral arrangements are referred to the Supreme Court for hearing. Costs are met by the disputing parties.

Let me break this down: I could be in a loving relationship with a man for 40 years, I could die (I’m selfish, I’d rather be the first to go), having done everything I could legally, and the only way I can ensure that my partner has the right to do with my remains what he believes I would want (which in the course of 40 years, I’ve probably discussed at least once) is to make him the executor of my will – and even this can be challenged. I, fortunately, have a wonderful family and I can’t imagine them doing this to anyone. I know not everyone is so lucky…

Is this a question that straight people contemplate? I don’t think so.  I’ve heard a few people concerned about what will happen to them when they die – which is why they talk to their husbands or wives – but not about whether their family will let their husband/wife *do* what they’re asked to.

Marriage cements the next-of-kin bond and being both senior next-of-kin and executor is much more difficult to challenge.

Join with me and fight for this important right, to name our partners as our next-of-kin 

Stand with me at Queen’s Park at 1PM on the 18th of May – and remember to go to the Facebook event for the Rally for Marriage Equality Brisbane and let us know that you’re going, invite your friends, tweet it, post it on your uni campus, and put it on your workplace notice-board.  Get the word out that it’s happening. The more people who show, the bigger the push for Parliament to pass it.

Rally For Marriage Equality

It’s time! Time to pressure our pollies! Time to remind the nation that it’s still not done! Time to stand and demand a definition of marriage that, like love, is gender-blind! It’s time! Time for marriage equality!

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.

72860 10151540753533815 1966607866 n

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

 

Why religious exemptions are important to me

From the abstract political in recent posts on this topic, to why I personally feel the religious exemptions in the anti discrimination act are horrible.

I’m in IT. This is fortunately an area in which there are a number of fantastic and progressive employers. But some people in IT wind up working with and for community service organisations- a sizeable number of which are run by religious groups. The Catholics, the Salvos, the Anglicans, the Uniting church, and many more.

I work for the IT department in an organisation providing aged, disability, and children’s services. And one of the questions I had to delve into about my organisation in the light of the recent federal bill was “are they a religious organisation? Will they retain the right to discriminate against me because I’m gay?” I went hunting across the Internet and I’m satisfied that the answer is “no”. I know they were aware that I was a gay activist before they hired me. (It doesn’t take more than a basic google to uncover that information, and what employer doesn’t google their prospective employee?)

The religious exemptions as they stand in the draft bill mean that people like me, particularly working in the community services sector, have to do a lot more research before we accept positions to make sure we make our decisions armed with all the facts about our employers and their ability to discriminate against us.

This institutionalised blanket permission for discrimination places a higher burden on anyone who might feel that they might at some point be protected by anti discrimination legislation in order for them to feel secure in their positions.

I’m out to a point that going back “in” isn’t an option for me even if I wanted to. And that means that I will have to be wary should I wind up considering a job offer from a religious employer… That’s the only positive in recommendation 12 in the report: employers would have to announce their intention to discriminate up front. They won’t be able to simply change their mind about me later…

Make it simple, don’t let people discriminate without demonstrable reason.

The Anti-Discrimination Bill Inquiry Report

There are a total of 12 recommendations to come out of the Senate Inquiry Report. I posted about the deficiencies I noticed in the current draft recently, and so I’m going to address the four recommendations that relate to those inadequacies.

Recommendation 1
7.20 The committee recommends that the definition of ‘gender identity’ in clause 6 of the Draft Bill be amended to read:

gender identity means the gender-related identity, appearance or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual (whether by way of medical intervention or not), with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth, and includes transsexualism and transgenderism.

Perfect! It does away with that troublesome genuine basis stuff and makes the definition more readily accessible to those who may be discriminated against for perceived gender identity difference.

Recommendation 2

7.21 The committee recommends that subclause 17(1) of the Draft Bill be amended to include ‘intersex status’ as a protected attribute. ‘Intersex’ should be defined in clause 6 of the Draft Bill as follows:

intersex means the status of having physical, hormonal or genetic features that are:

(a) neither wholly female nor wholly male; or

(b) a combination of female and male; or

(c) neither female nor male.

In my first read, I was provisionally happy with this definition. I’m not Intersex and while I haven’t had an issue with gender-diversity, the terminology is still kind of new to me. I have since noticed that this definition is verbatim the one suggested by Gina of OII. If OII suggested it, I know it’s going to be the right language. Well done OII!

Recommendation 11

7.80 The committee recommends that the Draft Bill be amended to remove exceptions allowing religious organisations to discriminate against individuals in the provision of services, where that discrimination would otherwise be unlawful. The committee considers that the Australian Government should develop specific amendments to implement this recommendation, using the approach taken in the Tasmanian Anti‑Discrimination Act 1998 as a model.

This is big. This is very big. This recommendation expands on the aged-care provisions in the Draft Bill and removes the religious exemption for people they are providing a service to…
That means that religious schools would have to accept, for example, the children of my Baptist Pastor friend even though they question his “commitment to Christianity.” They also would be unable to expel a student for being gay or pregnant.

On the very day this recommendation came out, the opposition called on Labor to rule out its implementation – not that they have any intention of supporting this bill anyway…

So reading through 11 good recommendations in a massive step forward, I was a bit thrown by the twelfth.

Recommendation 12

7.81 The committee recommends that clause 33 of the Draft Bill be amended to require that any organisation providing services to the public, and which intends to rely on the exceptions in that clause, must:

  • make publicly available a document outlining their intention to utilise the exceptions in clause 33;
  • provide a copy of that document to any prospective employees; and
  • provide access to that document, free of charge, to any other users of their service or member of the public who requests it.

What this means, dear readers, is that if you apply to work at a religious organisation, they must provide you with a copy of their discrimination policy. They’re simply obligated to tell you how they intend to mistreat you before you sign the contract. This is a step forward for transparency, I suppose. I hope that people will call out our religious providers for their policies. But unless this recommendation is fleshed out in legislation to require a clear explanation of which subsections of Section 33 the organisation intends to use and how, I expect that we’ll see a lot of policies that state that they “retain the right to discriminate on the basis of [the whole list], as outlined in Section 33 of the Bill.”

On the surface, this transparency is at least a start. It is quite sad though to think about all those people in industries like aged care which are dominated by religious groups. Those poor folks gain little from this legislation if all of the policies are as bad as each other. I’ve heard the opinion that this gives the public a chance to shame the organisation into fixing their policies… I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but religious groups are to renowned for moving with the times or even caring too much about public opinion. I think to think that they will be shamed into changing is naive unless some church groups release policies saying they do not intend to discriminate.

On this point, I would like to say thank you to UnitingJustice Australia – a social justice arm of the Uniting Church who supported the removal of blanket religious exemptions for the following: (pp58/59)

We acknowledge…that the exercise of religious freedom is subject to the regulatory norms that govern Australian society…

We do not believe that [clause 33] is necessary, in light of the need to balance the rights of the wider community with the freedoms to be afforded to religious groups…When religious bodies are provided [with] what amounts to a ‘blanket exception’, there is no incentive for that body to ensure that it does not discriminate, and no incentive to promote equality and inclusion in areas of employment and representation other than those leadership positions necessary to maintain the integrity of the religious organisation.

The Coalition dissenting report has recommended that the bill not be supported, but that:

1.35 Coalition Senators recommend that Part II of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 be amended to include identity as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex person as a protected attribute to which the Act extends.

Given they want to ensure that religious exemptions still apply, I view this second recommendations as a token statement designed to appease the GLBTIQ lobby without giving ground where it really matters.

I’m just left hoping the Greens, Independents, and other minor parties work to force the government to do the right thing with this bill, since it’s clear that neither major party will put the amendments forward…

There’s a petition being presented to the Attorney-General on Tuesday – go sign here: http://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/anti-discrimination/time-for-action/sign-the-petition
Don’t forget to write to your MPs, senators, and papers on this issue.