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.

eThankfulness for 30 Dec 2012

As the year draws to a close, the time comes to look to the future.

But first, a look back over 2012

It’s been a wonderful, tumultuous year for me and there have been lots of opportunities to be grateful!

Major events:

  • Made a definite decision to move out of Gladstone 1/1
  • Started getting housemates in (technically 27/12/11)
  • Did minor renovations – painted the house etc. 17/5
  • Put my house on the market – 23/5
  • Both my parents turned 60 – Trip to Tasmania to celebrate 4/8
  • Mackay Rally For Marriage Equality 6/10
  • One of my long-time friends got married – 2nd Trip to Tasmania to celebrate 3/11
  • Gladstone Marriage Equality Rally 17/11
  • Sold my house 27/11
  • Moved in with *shudder* people 23/11
  • Contract finished at NRG 31/12
  • Move to Brisbane 31/12

So what am I going to be Thankful for?

Well, this week I’m thankful for:

Fantastic work people at NRG – I’m going to miss a lot of people from that place

My current housemates – apparently sharing with people isn’t as bad if you’re the one renting the room!  Kidding – M and R have been awesome housemates, and it’s a nice place to live – AND I’ve been able to have Alva here

Friends – so many have been making efforts to catch up before I leave, it’s been really nice.

Work – I’ve managed to get all my projects complete before I left, so I’m quite pleased with myself

Christmas – M’s parents invited me to spend Christmas with them by their pool in Boyne Island, where I was treated like one of th family – it was just lovely, a wonderful way to spend Christmas if I had to spend it away from my own family.

Success – I will succeed in my New Year’s Resolution to be in Brisbane for NYE!

and Having time to spend with friends, to pack, everything

But looking back over this year’s events, what are the things I’m most thankful for?

Making a plan with scary goals, and sticking to it.

Getting at least *one* housemate into my house that I want to associate with afterwards

My friends, who helped me paint my entire interior in a single day, and did a damn good job!

Friends helping with moving furniture around and post-reno cleanup etc, ready for open homes

My August trip to tasmania was (Besides a chance to celebrate my parents’ 60ths) an opportunity to catch up with friends I haven’t seen since I was there the year before, and yielded an opportunity to catch up with my cousin Heather who I so rarely get to see (She’s in Melbourne), and whose company I enjoy so very much!

Attending MR4ME in Mackay was amazing – an experience I won’t soon forget, I met so many amazing people!

My November trip – Aside from the opportunity to see my friend tie the knot, I got to spend time with some of my Canberra friends

GMER – There really isn’t much I’m not grateful for there – it all went so well, and was just such a success

I sold my house – Thankyou Margie Richards for your hard work on getting it sold – Look her up at PRD Nationwide Gladstone if you’re looking to buy or sell in this town – she’s fantastic!

As I said before, my current housemates are awesome – and I’m grateful for good housemates!

My Contract finished at NRG, and while that’s kinda sad, I’m grateful that I was able to leave the place wishing I could have stayed longer – it’s a nice way to end things.

And the move to Brisbane? I’m grateful that there’s someone who can look after Alva while I look for work and a pet-friendly home.

Thank you Gladstone, for some wonderful memories.

eThankfulness – 29 Oct 2012

As promised,  It’s time to be grateful!  And let me tell you, I’ve got some doozies this week!

I sold my house! This has been a major stressor for me, mainly because I wasn’t sure I’d have a job after 16 Nov.

I’ve been extended!  My work is now until 31 Dec, which is a small reprieve, but enough to get me into work in Brisbane before I finish, I hope!

I’ve been published via Gay Marriage Rights Australia – Apart from being very chuffed about actually getting a mention from them, this brings me to thing-I’m-thankful-for number four…

Records have been *obliterated*  My previous “most views” statistic for a single day was 166.  Today’s article views on Age Of Consent in QLD are sitting at three times that!  Thank you, fantastic readers, for getting me to that height!

My work’s major project for the year is finally hitting some goals!  We’ve started rolling out our new system, and I’m so proud of my team!

I have a room for the time between my house selling and a Brisbane job starting!  It just dropped into my lap!

I got to go see the Rockhampton production of Hairspray on opening night!  It was a great night, and I loved it!

Finally, this week I go back to Tasmania for the weekend to see my fag hag extraordinaire tie the knot with her long-time partner.  I’m super-excited about that! 😀

What are you thankful for?

Tasmanian marriage – MLCs say no.

In a classic “so close, yet so far” moment, the Tasmanian upper house voted on Same Sex Marriage and resulted in a negative.  Despite high hopes, it didn’t pass.

So that’s disheartening, right?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, it’s a shame they didn’t fix it this time when they could have, but that has given some breathing space to reconsider potential blind spots vis a vis Intersex and possibly word things to better prevent a High Court Challenge (and allay those fears of the Hon MLCs)

One thing I *have* been pleased about is that overall, the reasons why the MLCs didn’t pass it were (in general) reasonable concerns, and we saw none of the bilious commentary which featured in the federal debate.  Why?  I suspect because the Tasmanian LegCo doesn’t have the same party divides.  Being almost all independents, the MLCs have learned to work together on whatever they support while respecting their colleagues – since an opponent on today’s bill may be their staunchest ally on tomorrow’s.

Marriage Equality will happen in my lifetime.  I believe that barring an LNP Federal government next Federal election, it will happen within the next parliamentary term.

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!

Same-sex marriage: Equality or not?

This post is the result of an interesting response from a member of “Proud to be a second-class citizen” to Marriage equality in Tasmania: the legal and constitutional issues.  She pointed out that the current Bill before Tasmanian Parliament is a Same-sex marriage bill and not a Marriage Equality bill.  I was surprised. I stopped, went and downloaded the bill in question, and it indeed states, instead of the “Regardless of their sex” in the Federal Marriage Equality Bill, that it permits marriage between two people of the same sex.

I had it suggested to me that I should go and research the legislative complexity around including intersex marriage equality in the bill.  I am not a lawyer.  Let me repeat, I am not a lawyer; the reading I do and the research I do is filtered through my limited understanding of the law.  In essence, whatever I come up with here, I might be wrong.  And if I am, I want you to tell me so (and why)!

I’ve had some basic leads, suggestions that Tasmania recognises two sexes and does not recognise any individual as being of unknown sex.  But nothing I can find in a search of the Tasmanian legislation for the term “sex” explicitly states such.  The closest I can get is that a registration of Change of Sex requires the Registry to be changed to note that the person is of “the other sex” and that a notation be put on their certificate to state that they were “previously registered as of the other sex.” (easiest to read here).

The suggestions that I have seen have hinged on including the term “of unknown sex” or “of indeterminate sex” in the definition. e.g. “two people of the same sex, or where one or both of them are of unknown sex”.  I wonder, in a legislative environment where “the other sex” has clear meaning, whether it is possible for a person to be “of unknown sex” or “of indeterminate sex”.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this might be the cause of the bill’s frustrating so-close-yet-so-far situation.  It’s great for the G, the L, and the B (Provided they’re either M or F); but for the T and the I… it doesn’t help.

If Commonwealth law and State law agreed on the definitions of sex here, it would be easier.  In a world where all people are either M or F, we would then have a marriage act to cover all situations, and in a world where all levels of government accepted indeterminate sex, the state could legislate to cover that too. But we have seen (In the case of C and D, among others) that Commonwealth law does not see intersex people as male or female, and as such statements to the effect of “of the same sex” or “of opposite sexes” do not apply to them.  Rather they are left in a difficult situation while the federal government refuses to legislate, and the state has to tread carefully around the federal law to ensure there are no incongruities that might cause the state law to be struck down by the High Court.  

It is because of this tiptoeing that they cannot simply say something to the effect of “two people, regardless of their gender” like the federal bill does.

The result of my inquiry? I think same-sex marriage is a move in the right direction.  It’s a step closer to marriage equality. But to say that the Tasmanian bill provides marriage equality in Tasmania is not only fallacious, it is dangerous.  That implies that the work in Tasmania is done when this bill passes, where clearly this is not the case.

My personal, heartfelt, passionate response to this is to turn to our Federal government and say “Come on! Just make it law already and save everyone time, money, and heartache!”

What this has really reminded me of is to look for the hidden discriminations.  The laws that look equal, but aren’t. The statutes that proclaim equality while enforcing discrimination and segregation.  To my Trans and Intersex readers, followers, friends, acquaintances, and fellow queer community members, I say: “I stand with you for Marriage Equality.  I apologise for making the presumption that if my needs were catered for, yours would be too.  Thank you for reminding me of the truth. I will try harder to be more perceptive in this area.”

Tasmania’s first steps

 Well done Tasmania!

For those of you yet to find out, Tasmania’s Lower House passed a Marriage Equality bill.  This is groundbreaking not only for Tasmania, but nationally, as Tasmania is the first parliament to even debate and vote on a marriage equality bill, let alone pass it!

The pipe organs aren’t blasting out “Here comes the bride” in stereo quite yet though…  There’s this thing called the Upper House, the Legislative Council, or *gasp* the House of Review (Queensland, take note).  The Upper house is a second house which can require amendments, etc etc.  In Tasmania, the Legislative Councillors are primarily independents.  So far there are still five of the fifteen who haven’t indicated their support or lack thereof for the bill.  For the bill to succeed, at least three of those 5 need to vote in the affirmative.

Dear Tasmanians,  tell your legislative councillors how you feel.  Get in touch, write letters, and don’t forget to write letters to the editor in support – your politicians read those too.

eThankfulness for 19 August 2012

Today’s eThankfulness revolves around my holidays, unsurprisingly!
I am thankful for:
My fantastic hosts. You have been so very generous and I appreciate you more than you could know.
The amazing people I have met and/or caught up with so far.
The appointment-book for the coming week is looking fantastic also!
Variable weather! Qld is nice and all, but the weather is usually the same as the previous day. In Tassie you don’t have that reliability from hour to hour, and I love it!
Dad’s birthday party! Went off very well!
The people who helped cater dad’s birthday party! You took a huge load of stress from mum and me!
My parents! For lending me a car to gallivant around the state in!

I stopped at my old church today, Pilgrim Uniting in Launceston; I am further thankful for:
Pilgrim’s youth group – eloquent and wonderful as evidenced by today’s service and the “As I See It” in the newsletter… well done!
The other amazing people there. It was fantastic to see them all and catch up with them, however briefly.
The building itself is still beautiful, still magnificent. It is, and always will be, a place where I feel connected to the rest of the universe.
The work Pilgrim does – we heard today about pilgrim’s Refugee Account and how this no-interest-loan scheme has helped reunite multiple families torn apart by war, including a man in tasmania and his daughter in a Ugandan refugee camp… they hadn’t seen each other for 9 years… they also run a low-cost cafe, childcare, and much much more. Launceston without Pilgrim wouldn’t be Launceston.
Political activism – various members of pilgrim are regular protester for human rights and environmental protection….

I am thankful that I can look at my past and see involvement in such a fantastic group of people!

Why I’ve been slack…

Well, I debated make a statement that my blog was going to be on hiatus while I trekked across the country to Tasmania for a 3 week holiday.  I decided against it, figuring that I could maintain the blog as easily from Tasmania as QLD.  Turns out, I can’t! I really haven’t spent much time looking at the interstate news, and QLD news is almost invisible outside the state… I aim to produce an eThankfulness on Sunday, but probably won’t post again after that until I return to QLD on the 27th, provided nothing absolutely massive happens.

I recommend signing this petition by Baptist Minister Rev Carolyn Francis requesting a meeting between the PM and Christians whose views do not match those of the ACL.

I was in Tasmania for the fantastic announcement that Tasmanian Labor would push forward on marriage equality at a state level, and recently had a chance to meet with the Tasmanian Attorney General, Brian Wightman.  Our meeting was off the record as my current hosts are related to him, but he was lovely, charming and fantastically in support of the proposal.  Tasmanian Labor are to be praised for once again leading the way on LGBTI law reform.  I am proud of how far Tasmania has come! From being the last state to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997, to being the first to have legal recognition of Queer relationships in 2004 (Four years before commonwealth legislation around same-sex de facto couples), to now being ready to try for Marriage Equality in 2012.

Letters to the editor in Tasmania’s major paper, The Examiner, have been fantastic too.  For every letter I see condemning the State Government, I seem to see two pro-equality replies.  Here is a state that has gone on a journey of discovery together and predominantly arrived at the conclusion that discrimination is wrong.  

The cynic in me also says that they’ve realised that the Pink Bridal market in Australia is potentially massive… and being the first state to make gay marriage possible will bring in a much-needed capital injection to the state’s economy.

The pragmatist in me says that the motivations are of little importance since the end result is the same and is fantastic!

Congratulations Tasmania.  Congratulations Lara Giddings. Congratulations Brian Wightman.  Congratulations Tasmanian Labor.  On the front of human rights and equality, you are doing a fantastic job!