Proposed surrogacy laws a clear attack on LGBTI rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Star Observer quotes Newman as saying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Senate Committee into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010

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

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

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

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

Arguments

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

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

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

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

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

Public support:

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

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

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

the Marriage Act, as currently drafted, is not discriminatory

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

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

Response

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

Marriage equality is about rights and removal of discrimination

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

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

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

Marriage is a secular institution

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

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

Evolution of marriage in modern society

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

Impact of marriage equality on children

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

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

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

Public support for marriage equality

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

Conscience vote on marriage equality legislation

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

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

The Recommendations!

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

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

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

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

Shame, Campbell Newman

This has been a hard week to be a Queenslander.  State-sanctioned ceremonies for Civil Unions were repealed.  Then it was announced that the requirement to go before a court to dissolve the relationship was being downgraded to be a simple filling out of a form, and they were being renamed “Registered Relationships“.  Now the LNP/ACL have said (during the debate/vote about the Registered Relationships thing) that they intend to do away with surrogacy options for same-sex couples…  Newman tells us that this will be the last change relating to same-sex couples.  But then, he told us just before the election that he wouldn’t be screwing with the surrogacy laws at all.

Queensland has gone from having some of the best same-sex legislation in the country, firmly denying the calls that QLD is backwards and bigoted, to actively targeting GLBTI members of the QLD community, Taking us to a par with Tasmania’s 2005 Relationships Act (which was amazing at the time because it conferred a whole bunch of rights that “de facto” status now covers – GLBTI couples were granted access to the “de facto” marital status in 2008)  There are no clear benefits to the QLD scheme now, except that I can have a piece of paper to wave at a hospital should my significant other wind up in an emergency situation.

All of this to appease the ACL (And the LNP Faceless Men) and remove any suggestion that a Civil Union might be anything even approaching a marriage.  All this effort to change something that up until it was time to repeal it was considered trivial, a political stunt by QLD Labor.  Indeed, Jarrod Bleijie (Now QLD Attorney-General) characterised the move as “just a distraction from the real issues to get him [Mr Fraser] and his people talking about issues other than what’s important to Queenslanders at the moment.”  So why is it important now?

It appears that Newman is trying to appease his ACL masters.  He admits clearly and unequivocally that this is to appease “the Christian Churches“.

I call for the Australian public to stand up and take notice – this is what happens when Conservative religious right-wing elements hold sway in a political party – the already-marginalised become collateral damage in an effort to appease and enforce religious dogma on a population which is not necessarily Christian.

Is the Campbell Newman method indicative of how Tony Abbott will behave if he attains government?  I hope we never find out.

Governating

Hurrah! Australia is being governated by a government again! Labor has just managed to form a minority govt with Andrew Wilkie, the Greens, Rob oakeshott and Mr Windsor.
Bob Katter, you’re an idiot, and I suspect your electorate will pay for your mistake.
Benefit of the labor government is that they’ll keep paying me, think that tech in schools and homes is important, and are intent on building Australia and it’s economic position, rather than just the budget surplus.

Dear Australian Independents…

So, our election here in .au failed to deliver a conclusive result for our two-party system.  We’ve been waiting for about 2 weeks to find out whether the Abbott for the Libs or Gillard for Labor will form government, and we still don’t know.  So far, Labor appears to be winning, which suits me just fine, (by the slimmest of margins at the moment)

A majority government requires 76 seats in the Lower House (Aka the House of Representatives) Labor won 72 outright, and the Liberals won 72+1 (I’ll explain this in a minute)  Labor are Left-leaning, promoting social reform and building infrastructure. The LNP (Liberal National Party) are Right-leaning, looking after business, mainly concerned with the economy. The reason the Liberals(LNP) have 72+1 is that the WA National Party has said “We are a separate party to the LNP, our representative will sit on cross-benches and will not necesserily vote with the LNP on any particular matter.” so while the news reports it as 73, they are really 72 as well.

So with 76 seats for clear majority and thus to form government, the Big Two search for alliances with independents and minor parties.  We have 1 Greens, and 4 independents in the mix.  the Greens and 1 independent have gone to Labor, which puts them at 74 seats, meaning that they need 2 of the remaining 3 independents to form government, if they get 3, they’ll have some margin for sickness. (a tie is deemed equal to a majority block in .au’s parliamentary system.)

So we have 3 independents who are still deliberating, one of whom has just released his 20-point wish list… 2 weeks after it became obvious that the Libs and Labs would be trying to woo them.  The Libs are fortunately taking it for granted that the independents will come to them, while labor is showing them some respect, and making an effort to influence their choice.  Then there was the issue with Abbott’s costings being $11 billion different from the costings of his promises produced by the Australian Treasury.

I work for a Labor project – the National Secondary Schools Computer Fund, a project where there will be 1 computer in schools for each student between year 9 and year 12.  I’m really hoping Labor get in, not just because in a way, they pay me, but also because they actually have plans, and are planning to actually do things, unlike the liberals who have said “We’ll abolish the mining tax, but we’re gonna cancel every major project that labor started” (That includes the NSSCF – going from a grant of up to $1m per school to a max grant of $50,000 per school – and the National Broadband Network – where even rural areas *will* have decent internet speeds, and most of the nation will have Optic Fibre to the home – FAST internet – not a good thing to cancel since the independents are all from regional/rural seats) and that’s so that we can wind up with the same sort of budget surplus as Labor.

What I wanted to say when I started this post was:

Dear Independents… Pick a damn side already or send us back to the polls.  I don’t care which you do, but I’d like a decision of some description.  (And if we went back to the polls, it looks like labor would win, no-one trusts Mr Abbott anymore)