June 12, 2000
Absolution for one, no gay communion
by Nicole Strahan, AAP
Gay and lesbian Catholics draped in rainbow sashes were refused holy communion by Archbishop George Pell yesterday, while a priest convicted for indecently assaulting a woman was welcomed to resume his pastoral duties. Dr Pell said Monsignor James Murray would be able to resume his work in Geelong because his crime of indecently assaulting a 25-year-old woman 27 years ago was isolated.
Dr Pell said he believed Monsignor Murray, who was fined A$500, had been sufficiently punished for his actions. "In my judgment, Monsignor Murray is entitled to return to his position because the incident was isolated, occurred so long ago and was in stark contrast with his otherwise blameless life of devotion and distinguished church leadership over 50 years," he said.
At St Patrick’s Cathedral yesterday, Dr Pell and other priests refused the sash-wearing men and women the sacrament of communion, offering a blessing in its place. With security guards watching, Rainbow Sash Movement members wept as they returned to their seats after the refusal Rainbow Sash Movement spokesman Michael Kelly vowed to continue to fight for the rights of gay Catholic men and women, even though they and their families had been refused communion nine times in the past three years.
"One of the unspoken stories of the Catholic Church is that there are huge numbers of people who do support gay and lesbian people," Mr Kelly said. Refusal of communion is considered the most serious sanction the church can invoke against a parishioner besides excommunication from the faith. Mr Kelly accused the Catholic Church of hypocrisy by continuing to discriminate against homosexuals, particularly in employment. "Its teaching on social justice is undermined regularly by its demand it has exemption from all anti-discrimination legislation. This means the Catholic Church can refuse to hire, or summarily sack, anyone simply because they are gay or lesbian," Mr Kelly said.
Dr Pell and the Catholic Church were also attacked by a support group for victims of sexual abuse, which claimed the church had breached its own rules by reinstating Monsignor Murray. Broken Rites president Chris MacIsaac said the Catholic Church previously had promised not to retain priests who abused their pastoral position
18 November 2000
Gay judge tells why he came out
by Maria Moscaritolo
Gay High Court judge Michael Kirby has speculated about being appointed to the nation’s highest court if he had "come out" prior to 1996. Calling on gays and lesbians to stamp out the "game of shame" he urged them to confront prejudice. Speaking at a Gay and Lesbian Business Association dinner in Canberra four years after revealing his gay status in Who’s Who by listing his male partner, he said homosexuals still faced "wrongs and disadvantages".
"What you have to ask yourselves is, if I had included my little entry in Who’s Who say in 1994, or 1995 even, would I be across the lake in the High Court? "It is simply not possible to continue the game of shame and that’s why I think it’s important for people who are homosexual to say this is me . . . it’s no big deal and get on with it," he said. He also touched on the genetics debate, saying he thought it was likely homosexuality was genetically determined. He said if homosexuality could be pinned to genes it raised the spectre of genetic selection ‚Äì parents going gene shopping until they had an ideal baby.
"The problem that is presented by genomic developments is exactly where do you draw the line. It’s a very big moral, legal ethical debate," Justice Kirby said. "Questions are presented as to where one draws the line in terms of the use that is made of the data concerning genetics in the issue of elimination of foetuses or the choice of embryos," he said. "It’s disturbing, to me, to see the enthusiasm in some scientific circles for elimination of the great variety of the human species, which has been one of its glories and one of its protectors." He denied he had been brave to reveal his sexuality, discreetly done by naming his partner of 30 years. "It wasn’t courageous at all because . . . I was in a constitutionally protected position," he said. "I’ve never been secretive about my relationship. I’ve never pretended, I never denied myself and I just didn’t force it upon people."
He said some people had reacted with "sheer hate" after he made the announcement, but others had been supportive, grateful and admiring. He and his partner decided to make their relationship public because they felt they owed it to young people, he told his audience. "It is our personal obligation as citizens to play whatever part we can in the democratic process to ensure that change is secured."
24 November, 2000
More law changes for gay couples
by Meaghan Shaw and Darrin Farrant
The Victorian Government has vowed to change every piece of discriminatory legislation after its introduction yesterday of a bill to give new legal rights to gay couples. The bill aims to provide gay and lesbian couples with the same rights as heterosexual de facto couples in relation to medical treatment, superannuation, property transfers and wills.
The changes amend the definition of "spouse" in 45 acts,creating a new term, "domestic partner," encompassing heterosexual and same-sex de facto relationships. Attorney-General Rob Hulls said about 40 further pieces of legislation discriminated against same-sex partners. The government would introduce more changes next year. "In a democratic society it is absolutely appropriate we treat all of our society equally," he said. The Statute Law Amendment (Relationships) Bill implements recommendations in the Equal Opportunity Commission report in 1998. The bill proposes that same-sex partners be consulted about medical treatment of their partners in hospital and ensures that property transfers between same-sex partners are free of discriminatory taxes.
It recognises same-sex relationships when a partner dies without a will and in relation to superannuation benefits. The bill does not endorse adoption for same-sex couple or legal rights for them to gain IVF access. A separate definition of "spouse" would continue to be used to refer to partners in a conventional marriage. The government’s Advisory Committee on Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Issues has identified further laws to be changed next year. Mildura independent Russell Savage, who moved amendments to the government’s equal opportunity legislation earlier this year, said he would read the legislation in the parliamentary break before deciding whether to support it. Gippsland West independent Susan Davies said she supported it in principle but needed to see the detail. Gippsland East independent Craig Ingram could not be contacted.
Shadow attorney-general Robert Dean said the opposition was yet to determine its position. Its philosophy was equal opportunity for all. "We believe in individualism and the protection of individuals against any form of discrimination and we will be bringing those principles to bear on this legislation," he said. On The Web: Victoria Government: http://www.vic.gov.au/
The Age, Melbourne, Australia. (http://www.theage.com.au )
23 November 2000
State to give gay couples new deal
by Ewin Hannan and Darrin Farrant
The Victorian Government will today unveil proposed laws giving gay and lesbian couples the same rights as heterosexual defacto couples in relation to medical treatment, superannuation, property transfers and wills. Attorney-General Rob Hulls will announce plans to amend the definition of the term "spouse" in 52 pieces of legislation, creating the new term "domestic partner" encompassing heterosexual and same-sex de facto relationships.
The Statute Law Amendment (Relationships) Bill is expected to relate specifically to medical treatment, property transfers, superannuation rights and wills. The bill does not endorse adoption for same-sex couples or legal rights for those couples to gain IVF access. It is expected a separate definition of spouse would continue to be used when referring to partners in marriage. Under the proposed changes, same-sex partners would be consulted about medical treatment of their partners in hospital. Property transfers between couples will be treated in the same way.
If an individual in a same-sex relationship is nominated as a beneficiary to superannuation, this would also be recognised. The bill is also expected to recognise same-sex partners when their partner dies without making a will. Government sources said the bill implemented the recommendations of the 1998 Equal Opportunity report, Same Sex Relationships and the Law. The ALP committed in opposition to ending discrimination against people in same-sex relationships. Sources said the State Government believed all couples who committed themselves to a relationship should receive the same rights "in the eye of the law". They said the government wanted to ensure discrimination suffered by couples in same-sex relationships was a "thing of the past".
The State Government’s move has been welcomed by gay and lesbian groups, which have been campaigning for the changes for more than a decade. The Also Foundation said that the changes would give gay men and lesbians the same rights as heterosexuals across many basic quality-of-life issues, such as transferring property, visiting loved ones in hospital and superannuation rights. "It’s a breakthrough. It’s a step forward that we’ve been waiting to happen for so long," the foundation’s president, Adam Pickvance, said yesterday. "This is not about giving us anything which every other person doesn’t already have." Mr Pickvance said he was pleased the Bracks Government had delivered on the promise of reform it had made before it came to power.
It is unclear whether the opposition parties and the three independents — particularly Mildura MP Russell Savage — will support the bill. But Mr Pickvance said he was confident that the Liberal and National parties, as well as the independent MPs, would back these changes. He added it was hard to believe that it has taken 19 years since Victoria decriminalised homosexuality for these reforms to be brought before State Parliament.
15 December, 2000
Lesbians are better parents says study
by Jen Kelly, health reporter
Lesbian couples make better parents than heterosexuals, research suggests. IVF pioneer Carl Wood has published a paper detailing American research of several years ago to renew the push for all lesbians to be granted rights to infertility treatment. The studies suggested lesbian couples made better parents because their children were more tolerant of diversity and more socially skilled.
Children of lesbians were also found to suffer far less parental sexual and physical abuse and incest than their peers. "Women are more verbally fluent than males, so with two women bringing up a child, it has a greater chance of developing better conversation skills," Professor Wood said yesterday. "Thechildren of lesbians in the studies also had a broader view of life." Prof Wood’s claims have fuelled fresh debate over whether gay and lesbian couples should be able to raise children.
Australian Family Association national secretary Bill Muehlenberg said the great weight of studies suggested any combination other than a man and woman — preferably married — harmed the child. "These children will do less well on almost every social indicator — school performance, suicide rates, drug involvement and criminal involvement," he said. The long-term damage to children of lesbians was unknown because the phenomenon was quite new and few offspring were past adolescence.
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Lobby spokeswoman Miranda Stewart said all research suggested gay parents were as good if not better at raising children. "What’s important in parenting is loving attention and consistent support for the child," she said. "Determining what is a good parent shouldn’t be linked to who you have sex with." Prof. Wood, who published his report in Australian Medicine, said the maternal instincts of two women may provide more love and care than other couples. Children of lesbians usually were the product of carefully selected fathers, whereas 5 per cent of off-spring of heterosexual couples were the product of adulterous relationships.
In such cases, a mother’s guilt often harmed her relationship with the child and the father, he said. Under Victorian law, only lesbians who can prove they are infertile can use IVF, so most are still forced to travel to New South Wales for treatment. Prof. Wood’s claims were based on a review of 12 studies investigating more than 300 children of gay and lesbian parents.
It showed they did not differ from other children in most aspects, including psychological health, social relationships, personality and maturity. Prof. Wood also revealed he knew of lesbians who were using "do-it-yourself" donor insemination kits to become pregnant because they were banned from using reproductive technology.
Tiaras, tans, wigs and memories take to the streets
by Andra Jackson
It was an emotional moment yesterday for Norman Strugnell as he adjusted his silver tiara and wiggled into a leather belt equipped to hold a long pole. The 56-year-old Kew man was getting ready to carry one of the "boxes" that were covered with photographs and attached to poles in yesterday’s Midsumma Pride March. As the pint-sized Mr Strugnell sought to balance the exhibit by fitting the pole in its leather holder, he was also in a sense, carrying the weight of history on his shoulders. The display "boxes" are made from blown-up photographs and will also be used in the Federation Parade.
As to the source of the photographs on the box he was carrying — as he delighted in telling anyone who enquired — "I unearthed them in my drawers." The photographs were taken in 1973 at a picnic in the Royal Botanical Gardens. "It was one of the first picnics the gay liberation movement had," he said. He paused over one of the photographs to explain: "I instigated a game or oranges and lemons. Someone complained to the management and said we were disrupting the harmony of the gardens." They were asked to leave.
Carrying those time-frozen memories of that landmark picnic in yesterday’s march "is a bit like a trip down memory lane lane," he said. Yesterday’s was the 6th Midsumma Pride March but only Mr Strugnell’s 4th. Dressed in gold mesh shorts, and a green vest with elaborate gold and pink embroidery and black shoes and socks, he said: "We’ve come a long way. I would never have marched a few years ago." The pressure of family and employers was too much, he explained. "Then my father died. The time was right and I just suddenly decided to become political."
An actor and carer for people with dementia, Mr Strugnell he said a sense of humor helped to pull him through those earlier difficult years. Mr Strugnell was in one of over 80 groups that took part in yesterday’s march. Police inspector Jill Wood of Prahran estimated between 30,000 and 35,000 people attended or participated in the march as it made its way down St Kilda’s Fitzroy street. Participants ranged from the Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, the Ballarat Gay and Lesbian Association, Parents and Friends of Gay Lesbians, and the teenage, Minus 18 group. First time entrants included the Parkville Women’s Hockey Club. Much to the disappointment of some spectators, marchers under the banner "Gay Nudists Victoria" dressed up for the occasion.
The groups that drew a rousing reception from the sidelines were People Living With AIDS, and Gaplen, the gay and lesbian police employees. Those that like to flaunt their outrageousness had plenty of opportunities. One fifties-plus, muscular man stutted past in a silver t-shirt, black leather G-string, mostly bare buttocks and bare feet. Two drag-queens in outlandish purple and pink wigs, with spidery eyelashes and ballooning mammary glands, bounded along on the back of camels.
And while others tittered on high heels in tutus, what set this event apart from Sydney’s Gay Mardi Gras was that it was "a walk not a parade" said Pride Victoria’s president Penny McDonald. This difference meant that anyone watching could join in and they did, with marchers and spectators blending into one. The darling of the crowd was the suntanned State Health Minister and local MP, John Thwaites, who strolled along behind an ALP banner with the words "leading and listening". "We love you John", yelled one spiked haired bystander.
February 18, 2001
Homosexuality: being a lesbian, Asian woman in Sydney
by Helen Signy
Like Sammy Davis Jr, who bemoaned the fact that he was one-eyed, Jewish and black, it’s not easy being a lesbian, Asian woman in Sydney. Ten years ago, there were so few Asian dykes on the scene that people barely acknowledged their existence. Groups of attractive Asian women trying to enter gay clubs were routinely asked if they realised where they were, so unimaginable was it that they could be lesbians.
The same was partially true for Asian gays — in 1991, a leading gay magazine printed a letter questioning the use of a picture of an "ugly Asian queen”. "The first Asian lesbian participation [in the Mardi Gras] was in 1991 and it was quite a challenge because the highly sexualised nature of the parade intimidated many of the lesbians,” says Ms Happy Ho, one of the directors of Asian Lesbian and Gay Pride, a group formed in response to the magazine letter.
"A lot of the gay Asian people want to be white because they suffer so much discrimination — racism, sexism, homophobia. They pretend they’re not gay or pretend they’re white, and most Asian lesbians stay closeted,” she says. Alexander Ku, the Asian project co-ordinator at the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON), says Asian gay men tend to fall into three categories in Australia: those who want to assimilate and spend all their time in the white gay community, those who realise they cannot shake their cultural baggage and are confused, and those who finally accept their cultural identity and become proud of who they are.
"They start to realise that however hard they try to assimilate they will not be the same because they look different, they have a different body type and their accent is different,” Mr Ku says. Recent years have seen a huge change in gay men’s self perception and there is a stronger sense of self esteem throughout the Asian gay community, he says.
But Asian gay men living in more traditional communities, for example in the Western suburbs, still find it difficult to find self acceptance, particularly since there is a real lack of services for the Asian gay men. However, as the Mardi Gras has become a focus for the regional gay and lesbian community, bringing with it increasing numbers of participants from Asia, a new legitimacy is being stamped on Sydney’s Asian homosexual community too.
This was in evidence during the first weekend of this year’s festival when more than 500 Asian lesbians and gays turned out for a major Chinese New Year party at Darling Harbour’s Chinese Gardens. Ms Ho, who organised the sold-out event, said it was a symbol of Asian gay and lesbian pride, staged, significantly, close to China town which is viewed as one of the most homophobic areas in Sydney.
The prejudice here does not necessarily come from the white Australian community, she says, but from the Asian communities themselves — which, like many migrant groups in Australia, have ended up more conservative than their contemporaries at home. "If you’re a migrant you want your children to succeed, you don’t want them to be a sexual pariah,” says Ms Ho. "Within our culture the discussion of sexuality is such a taboo.
"But once you start to feel pride in your own culture you are in a safe position. Now, for the first time, we feel really proud.” The change around is due to several factors. Globalisation of the gay and lesbian community has meant more Asian gay and lesbian role models have appeared. The internet has brought better links between individuals, and there is growing acceptance in the general community of the freedom to choose one’s sexuality.
Once they come to Sydney for the Mardi Gras, many Asian gays and lesbians find the freedom to express themselves, free of the burden of cultural expectations in their own countries. Being homosexual in many parts of Asia still means contending with institutionalised discrimination and deep rooted conservatism. In China, homosexuality is illegal and viewed as a Western import. In Malaysia, the former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, was jailed last year on alleged sodomy charges. In India, the spread of HIV/AIDS has led to increased discrimination against the gay community, and religious laws in other countries make the practice of homosexuality totally taboo.
For the vast majority of poor in Asia, many of whom have scant access to electricity and running water let alone the internet and overseas travel, the concept of gayness is meaningless. People may have homosexual desires and may even act on them, but are denied any real freedom of choice in countries where marriage and procreation are the only known alternatives.
Even in countries where cross dressing and transsexuality are the historical norm, such as Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, traditional groups are being threatened by an emerging Westernised, middle class gay culture. Transsexuals have long been accepted in those countries, where they are viewed as types of women — straight men do not question their own sexuality if they sleep with one. Now, many feel they are being discriminated against by the burgeoning gay movement, while the sharp increase in female prostitution since the 1997 Asian economic meltdown has meant their financial status is also being threatened. "They are losing out in general because the global gay culture tends to look down a bit on transsexuals — they are on the outside,” says Dr Alison Murray, a lecturer in Indonesian studies at the University of Sydney.
Many lesbians throughout Asia are also struggling, and most still stay firmly in the closet. "Female sexuality has always been less accepted,” says Dr Murray. "Since colonial times the whole idea has been very strong for Asian women to be passive and submissive. The whole idea if her choosing her own sexuality is abhorrent.”
However, there has been a significant shift in the way gay and lesbian culture is viewed in many Asian countries. While it is impossible to generalise — you can’t compare the experience of a gay peasant in Bangladesh to a lesbian graphic designer in Bangkok, for example — it is true that the internet has opened things up considerably for many gays and lesbians in Asia. "Most of the growth (in the gay community in Asia) has been within the middle classes because there has been a lot of overseas travel and it has become quite an international network,” says Dr Murray.
"The internet has really helped that — people know where to go and how to get in touch with each other, so they’re not travelling blind any more.” As people pour into Sydney for the Mardi Gras this month, the festivities are again giving a boost to the local Asian gay and lesbian community. "It encourages Asian gay (men) to be more aware and involved and pro-active and assertive,” says Mr Ku. "It’s good for their cultural and sexual identity, it’s giving them a chance to work with each other. It’s a way to get support from each other and understanding. "It’s all about getting Asian gay people to feel good about themselves.”
10 February 2001
Let the fun begin: 2001 Mardi Gras
The gay and lesbian community tonight launched a blistering attack on state and federal governments and the church, citing homophobic and discriminatory policies, at the launch of the 2001 Mardi Gras. More than 20,000 people gathered at the Sydney Opera House forecourt for the first event of the month-long festival, with entertainment from Marcia Hines and South African group After Nines.
Mardi Gras president Julie Regan told the crowd the federal government’s IVF legislation threatened lesbians and gay men who wanted to be parents. ”The last 12 months have shown that the forces of discrimination and ignorance are strong and sanctioned at the highest level in this country,” Ms Regan said. ”We have seen a federal government move to legislate against single women having access to IVF programs — a move that threatens both lesbians and gay men who want to be parents.” But the most scathing comments came from gay journalist and author David Marr, who warned state and federal governments they faced a backlash from gay voters at the polls this year over their policies.
As Sydney prepares for the month-long Mardi Gras festival, Mr Marr warned boys under the age of 16 not to be caught having sex with each other because they faced prison. ”This situation comes to you courtesy of the politicians of NSW and their backers: the bishops of the Catholic and Anglican churches,” he said. ”It’s a special little punishment for poofters that (NSW Premier) Bob Carr and (Opposition Leader) Kerry Chikarovski won’t do anything about.
”Yep, they’ve wished us well in the Mardi Gras program but they’re scared of the churches.” Mr Marr said the churches were the only organisations spreading hatred of homosexuals in Australia.”The bishops of Sydney’s Anglicans and the nation’s Catholics are the only people left lobbying politicians to make life for us unfair, uncomfortable and perhaps illegal,” he said.
Mr Marr warned of dire problems across the country in this election year, and said that in Western Australia, which goes to the polls tomorrow, gay men were forbidden by law to have sex until they were 21. ”Win or loose [sic], there is no immediate prospect that these elections will see the end of the last nasty laws and the last bigoted attitudes that still deny us the ordinary rights of ordinary Australians.” Mr Marr also attacked the federal government’s position on IVF treatment for lesbians. The Sex Discrimination Act Amendment Bill is due to be debated in federal parliament next month. ”I want to say something about the Christians pushing (Prime Minister John) Howard to ban IVF ‘for single women and lesbians’,” Mr Marr said.
”Don’t you love that, ‘and lesbians’, so that no-one can miss the point — here are perverts wanting babies.’ "These are the same Christians who say there must never be abortions, never be euthanasia, because life itself is absolutely sacred unless that life is conceived by a lesbian.” The Mardi Gras season culminates in the annual parade.
8 June 2001
Gay balance in the scales of justice
A recent high-profile court case has updated the defamation law on homosexuals, writes Richard Ackland. Thanks to Rene Rivkin, the celebrity stockbroker, we have a ground-breaking decision from the NSW Supreme Court that it is no longer defamatory of itself to say that someone indulges in homosexual intercourse. This was decided by Justice Virginia Bell who presided over the recent preliminary trial before a jury of Rivkin’s defamation action against Channel 7.
The shift in legislative reform over the past few years, which has seen both State and Federal parliaments make it a breach of the law to discriminate against homosexuals, has finally affected the thinking of defamation courts. Seven’s "Witness" program had broadcast material following a coroner’s inquiry into the death of Caroline Byrne, a girlfriend of Rivkin’s chauffeur, Gordon Wood Just before the jury was empanelled, counsel for Channel 7, Robert Stitt, QC, advised the judge that he wanted to argue that the defamatory imputations pleaded by Rivkin did not arise from the broadcast on March 4, 1998.
The relevant imputation was that Rivkin "had engaged in homosexual intercourse with Gordon Wood". The program had interviewed Wood and had asked him — though the question had no substance or basis of fact — if Caroline Byrne had put him under surveillance "and had sprung [Wood] having homosexual intercourse with Rene Rivkin". This was denied by Wood and did not figure in any investigations. Rivkin sued the TV network for broadcasting it.
Stitt referred to legislation which he argued reflected a change in community attitudes to homosexuality. Amendments to the NSW Crimes Act had abolished the former proscription against homosexual conduct between consenting adult males. The Anti-Discrimination Act made it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality. The Anti-Discrimination (Homosexual Vilification) Amendment Act made it an offence in public to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of a homosexual.
The Property (Relationships) Legislation Amendment Act of 1999 meant courts could now adjust property rights between homosexual couples. And in the Commonwealth sphere the Migration Act and the Workplace Relations Act 1996 had removed discrimination based on sexual preference. This is not to say that these and other pieces of legislation decide the standards of the representatives of the ordinary reasonable viewer (ie, the jurors). Justice Bell said the legislative policy "spoke strongly of the change in recent years in social and moral values concerning homosexuality".
She went further and accepted it was no longer open to contend that "the shared social and moral standards with which the ordinary reasonable member of the community is imbued include that of holding homosexual men (or men who engage in homosexual sex) in lesser regard on account of that fact alone". She declined to allow the jury to decide the meaning of the imputations as originally pleaded by Rivkin and struck them out. What Justice Bell emphasized is that context is everything. If you call someone who is married with five children a homosexual it could be that he could sue on the basis that he is a hypocrite or maybe someone who abuses his power.
That is why Rivkin had to come up with another pleading for the jury at this preliminary trial. He argued, successfully, that it was defamatory to say that he "engaged in homosexual intercourse with Gordon Wood, a man who was an employee of his, much younger than him, who viewed him as a father figure, upon which he lavished gifts and who was engaged to be married". This put the homosexual pleading in the context that Rivkin was abusing his power which the jury did find to be defamatory. It is also telling that Justice Bell accepted the proposition that people of certain religious beliefs "may think less of a man who engages in homosexual intercourse". But interestingly for Archbishop George Pell and Anglican Archbishop-elect Peter Jensen, both avowed opponents of homosexual practices, the judge found that the relevant test was one of general community standards, not the attitudes of sections of the community.
Until recently there has been a dichotomy between the policy considerations embraced in various pieces of legislation which in some instances instruct citizens how they "should" respond to certain minorities, and indeed how ordinary people "actually" responded. Justice Bell is, in effect, saying that the mainstream community no longer finds homosexuality a matter of censure. Would those many Australians who still live in the closet be quite so certain?
15 November, 2001
Door opens to baby help for lesbians
by Gabrielle Costa and Misha Ketchell
Premier Steve Bracks yesterday said Victoria was legally bound to introduce guidelines that would grant "psychologically infertile" women, including lesbians, access to assisted reproduction technology and donor insemination. Expressing reservations about the proposed change, Mr Bracks said he did not have the luxury to block the latest moves by the Infertility Treatment Authority, which oversees assisted reproduction in Victoria, because they were based on a 2000 Federal Court ruling.
The authority has proposed guidelines that would allow women who for psychological reasons cannot have normal sexual intercourse access to reproductive technologies. Authority chief executive Helen Szoke said successful applicants would have to prove, clinically, they were unable to have intercourse, possibly through psychiatric assessment. "We’re trying to emphasise that this is not just like going to the 7-Eleven to buy milk," she said.
Mr Bracks denied any lesbian would be able to argue, solely on the basis of her sexuality, she was unable to have sexual intercourse: "It’ll only be available to single women if they happen to have psychological damage assessed by a doctor." But this was disputed by the convenor of the Fertility Rights Action Group, Ruth McNair, who said most lesbians would be able to gain access to fertility treatment in Victoria.
Even lesbians who had previously had sex with a man were likely to be deemed psychologically infertile, she said. "A lot of lesbians have had sex with men during their adolescence, during the coming out process. That doesn’t mean that now they are able to have sex with a man." The guidelines are being reconsidered after the Federal Court’s July 2000 ruling in a case brought by Melbourne infertility expert John McBain that all infertile women, regardless of marital status, could seek IVF treatment. The ruling has been challenged in the High Court. In the meantime, the Federal Court ruling overrides the Victorian Infertility Treatment Act, which allows IVF only for heterosexual couples.
Mr Bracks said the McBain decision had been observed because it had become law, and a successful High Court appeal would see the "original state laws" reinstated, making the guidelines redundant. Opposition Leader Denis Napthine said the Liberal Party would try to block the new guidelines in the upper house. Parliament does not need to approve the guidelines, although the opposition could introduce legislation to block them. It would have the support of Independent MP Russell Savage, who described the authority’s move as outrageous.
The Catholic Church said the guidelines would deny children the right to a father. Monsignor Christopher Prowse, the Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, said it was a misuse of scarce medical resources. "The interests of children, especially their interests in having a father, are being completely ignored," he said.
Ms Szoke said doctors had recently sought guidance on whether infertility included "psychological infertility" because numerous heterosexual couples with that complaint were undergoing treatment. "I expect the approach of practitioners will be extremely cautious, " she said.
20th December, 2001
Gays, lesbians given an airing
by Luke Dennehy
Melbourne will have Australia’s first permanent gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender radio station after a big shake-up in community radio yesterday. The Australian Broadcasting Authority also granted licences to Aboriginal group SEIMA, Christian group Triple Seven and youth station SYN FM. JOY FM station manager Paul Terdich said granting the licence was a significant moment for the gay and lesbian community. "This decision is certainly important for the Melbourne gay and lesbian community, which is diverse and multicultural," he said.
The decision left a sour taste with the 14 other stations that applied, in particular the youth stations unhappy with the granting of a license for SYN FM. Well-known youth station Hitz Fm, which is a breeding ground for commercial radio stars, was praised by the ABA but missed out because the authority believed SYN FM was more representative of youth. Hitz Fm president and one of the founders of the station, Andrew Gyopar, said the station appealed to the whole youth community, not just those who study. "Over the last nine years no other radio station has dedicated itself to young people irrespective of whether they study or not," Mr Gyopar said.
The four stations will receive the licence on January 1 and will have a year to become operational. Victoria was the only state without a full-time station for the Aboriginal community until yesterday’s decision.
19 February 2002
Parade goes on, but Sydney’s Mardi Gras suffering the blues
by Robert Lowe
Once a defiant act of protest but now a money-spinner for tourism, Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is suffering some mid-life blues. The three-week festival culminates this year on March 2 with the traditional glitzy parade of buffed buttocks and outrageous outfits that attracts enthusiastic, mainly heterosexual spectators in their hundreds of thousands. The nationally televised march will again wind its way through the inner city, including down Oxford St, the home of "queer Sydney".
The annual Mardi Gras, which also includes stage shows, music concerts and art exhibitions, has helped the city to rival San Francisco as the gay capital of the world. It is also reported to have become Australia’s single biggest earner of tourist dollars, bringing in an estimated $A100 million ($NZ123.8 million) for the local economy last year.
And yet, the 2002 event has been marked by a sense of malaise, with talk of big budget cuts and complaints that the carnival has lost its way. Less than half the 20,000 tickets for the main fundraiser – the post-parade party – has been snapped up and there are no big drawcards this year after three headline acts, including British porn star Aiden Shaw, pulled out. Mardi Gras president Julie Regan remained confident this week that targets would be met. "There are always doom-and-gloomers around and they should know better," she said. "This is an organisation that adapts to change and has done so for nearly 25 years."
Part of the problem for organisers are the aftershocks from the September 11 terrorist attacks, which caused a slump in travel worldwide. Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia managing director Rob Wardell predicted that the number of international visitors to the Mardi Gras, especially those from the United States, would be significantly lower than in the past. "The American downturn could be anything from 30 per cent to 50 per cent," he said. Many potential tourists were also having to choose between the Mardi Gras and the Sixth Gay Games, being held in Sydney in November.
The Gay Games are expected to attract 14,500 sporting and cultural participants, more than the total of athletes at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. "People have only so many holidays and so many disposable dollars," Mr Wardell said. To soften the Mardi Gras’ financial problems, the New South Wales state government has waived $A322,000 in fees it would normally charge for crowd control and road closures. Premier Bob Carr said the exemption was necessary to protect the 170,000 jobs in the tourism sector.
But the move caused controversy, with other organisations such as the state’s MS Society and Cancer Council, also seeking the same for their charity events. A separate issue facing the Mardi Gras is philosophical, with critics complaining that its accent on hedonism rather than gay rights had reduced its relevance. The carnival has its origins in an illegal march by 1000 protesters down Oxford St in June 1978. The demonstration, marking International Gay Solidarity Day and calling for an end to discrimination against homosexuals, was disrupted by violent clashes with police and led to 53 arrests.
Since then, Mardi Gras has grown into a summertime celebration attracting corporate sponsorship and pulling in parade crowds that reached an estimated 650,000 in 1996. But many in the gay community have expressed disenchantment with the commercialism that has turned the festival into what they see as just another date on the tourist calendar. The signature parade, once deemed so daring, was now a night out for middle-class families, while the organisation behind the festival had become bloated. "In the old days, Mardi Gras was run by a tiny staff of volunteers," one former treasurer said. "Now, there are 19 full-time employees – including a CEO who is paid $A125,000."
Ageing revolutionaries can point to other developments, such as the nature of the police presence, which once carried the threat of baton charges and "perverts" being carted off to prison. Nowadays, officers fall in line. Last year, several uniformed NSW officers marched in the parade and some of their Queensland colleagues have expressed interest in doing the same next month.
In another sign of the times, Tupperware, that icon of suburbia, has become a new sponsor of the Mardi Gras. The maker of plastic kitchen containers, traditionally hawked at housewives’ get-togethers, is hoping to boost its profile among gay consumers and to attract a younger clientele. "The company has had to change tack because there just isn’t the volume of stay-at-home mums interested in selling the products," marketing manager Ian Evans said. Mardi Gras film festival organiser Richard King backed the deal, describing it as "totally camp". "It’s just so wacky," he said. "We love it."
Then again, perhaps not so wacky. One of the movies on Mr King’s programme is Lifetime Guarantee: Phranc’s Adventures in Plastic – the tale of a singing Jewish lesbian’s obsession with Tupperware. – NZPA
27 March 2002
Anti-homophobia plan may curb suicide rate
by Rosemarie North
An anti-gay bashing programme tested in Canberra schools could combat Australia’s youth suicide rate. Suicide is the leading cause of youth deaths in Australia, responsible for 2683 deaths in 1998. The rate for 15 to 24-year-old males has risen threefold in the past 30 years. The latest figures show 119 New Zealanders aged 15 to 24 killed themselves in 1999. At an International Planned Parenthood Federation conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which the Waikato Times attended, Family Planning Australia executive director Roberto Rojas-Morales said an anti-homophobia pilot that worked in Canberra schools would go into other states.
The programme makes schools safer by educating same-sex attracted teens, teachers and youth workers. It started after surveys found bullying of same-sex attracted students was rife. A study of 1200 rural high school students found 11 per cent of teens aged 14-16 were attracted to the same sex. Another study of same-sex attracted teens found 13 per cent had suffered physical abuse and 46 per cent had suffered verbal abuse. Nearly 70 per cent of the abuse happened at school: 60 per cent by other students, 10 per cent by friends and 3 per cent by teachers. "It is total bullying," said Mr Rojas-Morales.
"It begins at primary school. "There needs to be an awareness that it’s part of overall bullying. It’s not an acceptable behaviour." Mr Rojas-Morales said gay-bashing could cause homelessness, alcohol and drug problems, avoidance of particular subjects and careers, leaving school early and unsafe sex. Family Planning Australia media adviser Alastair Harris said harassment could have tragic results. "Suicide is the major cause of death among young men and indications are that, particularly in rural areas, the principal cause of young men taking their own lives is confusion about sexuality. "This is not just an academic question – this is affecting thousands of families across the country." Robyn Drysdale, of the Family Planning ACT Program, said homophobia was so pervasive in schools that many people did not see it as wrong.
April 18, 2002
Highest court awards single women and lesbians right to fertility treatment
by Peter O’Connor, Associated Press Writer
Canberra, Australia – Australia’s highest court Thursday unanimously rejected a Catholic Church bid to ban single women and lesbians from receiving fertility treatment. In a unanimous decision, the seven justices of the High Court of Australia dismissed a challenge by the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference to prevent a single woman, Leesa Meldrum, from having fertility treatment in the southern state of Victoria. Meldrum, 40, wept as she heard the ruling. "I couldn’t help it, I just burst into tears," she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "It’s not just a victory for me, it’s a victory for women all over Australia."
The church, with support from Prime Minister John Howard’s conservative government, had hoped to overturn a lower Federal Court decision in Victoria allowing single women access to fertility treatment. The case related specifically to Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, but opposition lawmakers immediately said the ruling should lead to nationwide guidelines.
The court rejected the Catholic appeal on procedural grounds. The judges ruled they could not uphold the church’s challenge because it had not been involved in the initial Federal Court case. Catholic Church spokesman Warwick Neville said the key issues of concern to the church had not been addressed by the decision. "The focus always has been to uphold the rights of children," he said. Neville said the federal government should now move to resolve the issue.
23rd May, 2002
De factos and gays to get same legal rights as married couples
by Paola Totaro, State Political Editor
De facto and same sex couples will be given the same legal rights as married people, under a raft of legislative amendments flagged by the State Government on Wednesday. The Attorney General, Bob Debus, confirmed that 23 NSW statutes will be re-written or amended to adopt more modern definitions of de facto relationships and to remove gender specific references that continue to discriminate against couples in same-sex relationships. "Until now, those living in de facto relationships have been denied a great many rights, including access to payments and benefits arising from the death of a partner," Mr Debus said.
"At a time when these people are dealing with a major loss, they are also refused fundamental financial support the rest of the community takes for granted." However, Mr Debus would not be drawn on possible amendments to age of consent legislation, which in NSW remains different for males and females. He said "the whole law involving sexual crimes against child ren" was "in a state of some disarray at the moment". "There is a lot of confusion on the regime of penalties that apply and some of the defences that exist on various forms of sexual assault. We have to clear that up.
"I’m waiting on advice on how we can proceed to codify the whole law on sexual acts against children, or if we do just one or two minor reforms. Until then, I’m not sure what approach we take on the age of consent." The Opposition Leader, John Brogden, has stated that he supports an equal age of consent for both sexes but has made it clear this is a personal view and the Liberals would have a conscience vote on the issue.
The new laws, to be introduced during the current session of Parliament, will give de facto partners access to NSW state superannuation funds as well as unpaid work entitlements when a partner dies. This will apply to a range of professions, including teaching, the police force and utilities such as Pacific Power. Changes to the Crimes Act and the Evidence Act will give de facto partners protection in court which are now only afforded to a "spouse".
(At present, husbands or wives cannot be compelled to give evidence against each other but this protection is not afforded to de facto or same sex couples.)
Among 23 acts which will be changed are:The Credit Act; to confer equal rights in provisions relating to guarantors. The Industrial Relations Act; to ensure payment of mortality fund benefits. The Police Service Act; to allow payment of special risk allowances to de facto and same sex partners. The Public Sector Management Act; for payment of unpaid leave. Mr Debus said the process of removing discrimination would continue for some years.Last night, the NSW Opposition’s spokesman on justice, Chris Hartcher, said the Coalition had yet to see the detail of the proposals, but it would support them in principle.
16th July, 2002
Out, proud and parents Same-sex couples planning families want the same rights afforded heterosexuals.
by Natasha Bita
Corinna Pierce bristles every time she has to fill in her marital status on official forms. "It’s very annoying having to put "single" on every form when you’ve been together for so long and been through so much together," Pierce says, nursing her baby boy. "Now we’re a family and we still have to say we’re single. Lou’s not recognised as a parent, either." Pierce married her partner of seven years, Louise Fisher, on a purple and red-sequinned float at the Gay and Lesbian: Sydney three years ago.
Now they are parents to an eight-week-old son, Lucas, born to Corinna by donor insemination by a family friend. The name of the baby’s biological father has been left off his birth certificate, so the child will know his parents as "mummy" and "mummy Lou".
Officially, Fisher will be his legal guardian. The couple, who run the Jazz It Up Ceramics studio in Sydney’s inner-city Surry Hills, describe themselves as married but they do not refer to each other as "wife" because, as Pierce puts it, "it’s a bit daggy, we prefer the term partner". The new mothers are among 19,594 same-sex couples who declared they were living together in the 2001 census – double the number of 1996. Nearly half of the five-in couples are in NSW, another quarter in Victoria and 13 per cent in Queensland. Some 11.2 per cent of same-sex partners – or 2187 couples – are bringing up children.
The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, however, estimates that many more – one in five gay partnerships – involve children, sometimes from a previous straight relationship. The group says 41 per cent of same-sex couples want to be parents, according to its relationships survey of 650 couples last year. A quarter of gay couples had been married or in a heterosexual de facto relationship in the past, and more than a third had lived with their gay partner for more than five years. Virtually all wanted the same legal status as straight couples.
The Prime Minister has not been backward expressing his personal distaste. "I certainly don’t think there should be the same status given to homosexual liaisons as you give to marriage," John Howard told schoolchildren last year, adding that he would be "disappointed" if one of his sons turned out to be gay. While the federal Government bans marriage between same-sex couples, gay partnerships get various degrees of recognition as de factos in a hotchpotch of state and territory laws.
Western Australia the last state to recognise same-sex relationships, has gone the furthest by listing lesbians as co-parents on the birth certificate of a child born to one of the couple through IVF. The reforms, approved by parliament but awaiting royal assent, will give same-sex couples the same inheritance and adoption rights as heterosexuals.
In the pink capital of Sydney, gay couples have most of the same rights as heterosexuals and automatically inherit their partner’s assets if they die without a will. A couple living together can sign a cohabitation agreement to divide property in the event of a break-up.
Queensland bans same-sex couples from adopting children and does not consider gay partners to be next of kin, although they can leave property to each other in their will and give each other power of attorney.
Victoria amended 53 Acts of Parliament to give all couples equal rights regardless of their gender or marital status, by changing the definition of de facto spouse" to "domestic partner" last year. Gay couples still do not share the rights to adoption or IVF treatment. Even in the most progressive states, sex partners do not always get the same benefits as heterosexuals because under federal law they are not considered spouses for tax, superannuation or social security purposes.
The surviving gay partners of Australian prisoners-of-war in Japan during World War II have been denied the $12,000 in compensation given to war widows last year. A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Daryl Williams says the "overwhelming view" of Australians is that marriage means the union of a male and a female. "While condemning discrimination on the basis of sexuality, the Government also recognises marriage and the family as critical institutions within society," the spokeswoman says.
"Historically, marriage has … been bound up with the concept of procreation. The Government believes that it is clearly in the best interests of children for them to have … the care and affection of both a mother and a father. For this reason, the Government does not believe that homosexual partnerships can be given the same status as marriage nor as de facto relationships involving a man and a woman."
But even though Australia refuses to recognise same-sex marriage, it is one of the few nations to let homosexuals migrate as an "interdependent partner’. An Immigration Department spokeswoman says Australia will not recognise the marriage of a same-sex couple even if they are legally married overseas. The spectre of gay marriage in Australia is not merely hypothetical: 2400 same-sex couples have wed in the Netherlands since it became the first country to legalise gay marriages last year.
The Immigration Department says it does not keep records of applicants’ sexuality so cannot say whether any couples married in the Netherlands have sought to live in Australia. Denmark has announced it will follow the Dutch in granting full marital status to gays. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland already give gay de facto partners similar or equal rights to married couples. Norway’s Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss married his gay partner of 20 years in Stockholm in January.
Italy refuses to give any legal recognition to same-sex relationships but Germany and France let gay couples sign "life partnerships" giving them the same pension entitlements, insurance benefits and inheritance rights as heterosexual de facto couples. The Mayor of London set the ball rolling in Britain by setting up a partnership register last year for gay couples to take vows in a civil ceremony, although it has no legal status.
Australia‘s insistence that marriage must be of the man and wife variety matches policy in the US, which passed a federal law known as the Defence of Marriage Act to override any states that might dare approve gay marriages. So far only one, Vermont, has a form of registered gay partnerships. But official discouragement is not stopping Australian gay couples from taking the plunge in commitment ceremonies or affirmations, as they are known legally. "I do them anywhere – in parks, at home, at mum’s place," says Sydney celebrant Anne Coventry, who marries dozens of gay couples each year. One of the most extravagant ceremonies was that of Louise Fisher and Corinna Pierce, who exchanged vows as they queued for the Mardi Gras parade.
SIDE BAR: Same-sex declarations. There are 19,594 same-sex couples in Australia, according to the latest census. This is double the number of people declaring themselves as being in same-sex partnerships since 1996. Just over 11 per cent are raising children of marriage.
James Murray is The Australian’s religious affairs editor
26th August, 2002
Gay student sues for discrimination
by Louise Milligan, Schools reporter
"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" – Psalm 133:1
A gay former student of a Melbourne Christian school is taking legal action under equal opportunity legislation, claiming the school discriminated against him because of his sexuality. Tim, 16, alleged a staff member at Hillcrest Christian College in Berwick told him he "had the devil in him", and constant bullying by students prompted the principal to tell him to hide his sexuality. He left the school several weeks ago and is continuing Year 10 by distance education after he said homophobic bullies threw rocks at his head, spat on him, called him names and slashed his belongings.
"It was impossible. It was every day and I just could not do it any more. I just felt like it was never ending, and leaving was the only option," he told ‘The Australian’. "Through the whole thing I never got any support from them." Tim knew from that primary school he was "different" and, when asked at Hillcrest if he was gay, he said yes. But he said this resulted in a parental complaint, bullying and the principal telling him being gay was sinful and to "shut my mouth about it". His solicitor, Tanja Kovac of Slater & Gordon, said the behaviour of staff and students at the school was unlawful discrimination under the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act. "They are towing a line that went out in the Dark Ages and it’s hurtful," Ms Kovac said.
Hillcrest head of school Tony Ham admitted Tim was bullied and said students had been punished, but denied Hillcrest discriminated against him because he was gay. "Certainly, we had evidence at different times that Tim had been bullied. But there were also a number of incidents where he was the bully, where he used his sexuality as a defence mechanism," Mr Ham said. He said parents were aware at enrolment of Hillcrest’s Christian policies. Mr Ham said he was not aware of his staff member’s comments about the devil and Tim’s sexuality. "I absolutely did not ask him to shut his mouth and I certainly did not discriminate against him." Tim’s mother said the boy was "trying to defend himself against homophobia". "The school breached their duty of care. When he was being bashed and spat on, there were no teachers on yard duty," she said.
22 August, 2002
Unsafe sex rate doubles for gays
by Helen Tobler
The number of gay men having unprotected sex has doubled, triggering calls for a renewed safe-sex campaign. Two HIV/AIDS surveillance and behaviour reports, issued yesterday, show also that the rate of new HIV infections has remained steady over the past four years. Chris Puplick, chairman of the National Council on AIDS, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases, said some gay men were not using condoms after assuming they knew their partner’s HIV status. There also was a degree of optimism about the effectiveness of HIV treatments, he said. The Annual Report of Behaviour 2002, by the National Centre of HIV Social Research, shows the rate of unprotected anal sex in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth had increased from 14 per cent in 1996 to almost 26 per cent in 2001.
There also were significant increases in the rates of sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, Mr Puplick said. However, rates of hepatitis C had declined for the first time in five years. John Kaldor, deputy director of the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research – which released the Annual Surveillance Report 2002 – said safe sex messages needed to be reinforced. "HIV may be becoming less scary for some people, and may in some context contribute to increases in risky practices." Brad Gray, a 33-year-old Sydney man, said he and most other gay men always practised safe sex. Mr Gray said that since the mid-1980s, when the introduction of anti-retroviral treatments meant HIV was no longer a death sentence, HIV and AIDS had become hidden diseases in the gay community. "We don’t see the skeletal people any more. People don’t look as sick, and they don’t die as young. We don’t have visual reminders of the need for safe sex," he said. – The Australian
August 23, 2002
Greig (leader of Democratic Party): classic Generation Xer
by John Stapleton
His portfolio responsibilities include justice, information technology, fisheries and transport, but Brian Greig is still best known as the Democrats spokesman on gay and lesbian issues. Born in 1966, the new leader of the Democrats is seen as a classic member of Generation X. He is believed to be only the second gay leader of a major Australian political party – after Bob Brown [leader of the Greens] – and lives in Perth with his partner Keith. When he entered the Senate in 1999 he was already known for his gay activism and his stands on social justice issues.
In his inaugural speech to parliament, he said he has known that he was gay since the age of 12. "This has profoundly influenced my life and given me personal insight into intolerance, prejudice and the hatred that I might not otherwise have experience," he said. "Equally, it has made me determined to stand against this and to fight against all unjust laws by confronting law and opinion makers with the reality of their intolerance." Mr Greig was born in Fremantle and grew up in the small fishing village of Lancelin, two hours north of Perth, where his father worked as a professional crayfisher. At 13 he went to boarding school in Perth before studying teaching at Murdoch University. During summer breaks he worked as a deckhand on his father’s boat while campaigning against mining of local sand dunes.
In the 1980s, Mr Greig was active in student politics, helping to re-establish the National Union of Students. His activism continued throughout the 1990s as he became a prominent spokesman for WA’s gay and lesbian community. He helped establish the Australian Council for Lesbian and Gay Rights and was its spokesman from 1993 and 1995. Mr Greig served as an electorate officer and researcher to nine members of parliament, including three Labor Opposition Leaders, before becoming disillusioned with the ALP. He has been a close and supportive ally of ousted leader Natasha Stott Despoja, and said earlier yesterday that he would run against Aden Ridgeway for two reasons. "Firstly, I think there should be a contest, I don’t believe it should be a fait accompli and I think the national executive should have a choice of candidates," he said. "Secondly, I feel that many members would find it difficult to support Senator Ridgeway in light of recent events and my candidature gives them the opportunity to support an alternate proposition." – The Australian
20 September 2002
It’s gay mothers in law now
by Julie Butler
Maxine Drake has been the "invisible" parent in the lives of Tom, 4, and Jack, nine months. Ms Drake, 39, is the family breadwinner and had been involved in the boys’ lives since her partner of 13 years, Jane, 41, conceived them with donor sperm. At kindergarten, Tom makes two cards for Mother’s Day. He knows Ms Drake as Maxi-Mum, one of his two mums. But legally she has not existed as a parent. That all changes tomorrow, when the Labor Government’s wide-ranging gay law reform takes effect. The changes allow lesbians who become parents through a partner’s artificial conception to appear on the birth certificate as a parent. Ms Drake said yesterday the change would allow her to breathe more easily.
"This is the way it should be," she said. "It can bring me to tears if I think about it, that it’s taken so long to get to this point of full citizenship." Should Jane die, Ms Drake would no longer be at risk of losing custody of the boys. New WA birth certificate provisions are being introduced to reflect the changes. A spokesman for the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages said that in the case of couples such as Maxine and Jane, both could be recorded as mothers, or as parents, or Jane as the mother and Maxine as a parent. Australian Family Association national vice-president John Barich said he hoped a future government would revoke the gay law reform.
"We think it’s a retrograde step, all these anti-social behaviours being given acceptability," he said. Gay law reform battles discrimination Discriminating against anyone because of their sexuality will be illegal from tomorrow when the Labor Government’s gay law reform package takes effect. Interim WA Equal Opportunity Commissioner Moira Rayner warned this week that the reform was wide-ranging and urged government departments and the private sector to speed up changes needed to comply. Ms Rayner said she did not expect to be inundated with discrimination claims but said she had an enormous number of inquiries last year about sexuality discrimination issues.
Gay and Lesbian Equality convener Damian Meyer said the changes would be subtle but far-reaching. "Basically, people have got to stop discriminating wherever that applies, such as in the workplace, or access to services," he said. Democrats Senator Brian Greig said WA would be in line with most States and Territories in anti-discrimination protection and ahead on issues of parenting and recognising partners. He said it was time for the Commonwealth to move to outlaw sexuality discrimination affecting areas such as superannuation, immigration, industrial relations and defence forces. Catholic Archbishop of Perth Barry Hickey said the proclamation confirmed Parliament’s regrettable mistake of declaring homosexual relations to be the same as marriage. Australian Family Association national vice-president John Barich said the reform demeaned marriage.
He hoped Labor would lose power at the next election and a new government would revoke the changes. Dave Horvath, general manager of Perth gay bar the Court Hotel, said the changes provided basic human rights for gay people but would not change attitudes towards homosexual people. Attorney-General Jim McGinty said he hoped other legislation giving all de facto (including gay) couples property and maintenance rights akin to married couples, including recourse to the Family Court, would come into force in the next few months.
31st October, 2002
Gay times and bohemia rare in Smart State of Queensland
by Rosemary Odgers
Parts of Queensland are no-go areas for free-thinking bohemians and same-sex couples, according to controversial new research which questions whether Queensland really is the Smart State.
A major new report by the Australian Local Government Association says artistic and creative people shun Queensland to live in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth in search of vibrant street cultures, music, art galleries and cafes. The ALGA’s State of the Regions report includes a so-called bohemian index – identifying the top 10 regions attractive to free-thinkers such as artists, musicians and entertainers. Brisbane and the Gold Coast were the only two Queensland regions to make it on to the list at numbers nine and 10 respectively. And a separate index exploring demographic diversity found same-sex couples were twice as likely to live in Sydney and Melbourne than in any Queensland city.
The state’s north-west, pastoral and agricultural south-west, Gold Coast and the Fitzroy areas were among Australian regions least likely to have same- sex couples. The report also claimed that having a high number of bohemians or same-sex couples was an indication of a region’s success in developing hi-tech industry. The unusual findings triggered wild scenes in State Parliament yesterday, as both sides of politics sought to turn the report to their advantage. Opposition Leader Mike Horan claimed the report was proof that Premier Peter Beattie’s much-trumpeted Smart State agenda was failing to boost regional Queensland and was little more than political propaganda.
But Mr Beattie hit back, ridiculing the diversity and bohemian indices as nonsense, which questioned the credibility of the entire 400-page ALGA report. "Using the logic of this report and the Leader of the Opposition’s criticism, we should be encouraging people to set up same-sex households if we want to accelerate our Smart State credentials," Mr Beattie said. "All we have to do is offer cheap housing to same-sex couples in most of rural and remote Queensland, the Fitzroy region and the Gold Coast, and we’ll be well on the way. "This is a nonsense and a joke." Mr Horan said the same-sex couple index was only a minor part of the report and that Mr Beattie had highlighted it to avoid culpability over his failed Smart State agenda.
He said the report also included findings that no Queensland areas featured in the 10 most creative regions nationwide because only a small percentage of the workforce was engaged in "super-creative" jobs such as computing or entertaining. "He (Mr Beattie) has used a segment of this report to cover up his failures," Mr Horan said. "This report really has nothing to do with same-sex couples."
31st October, 2002
Editorial: Clever theory, but is it smart? Re:Australian Local Government Association’s State of the Regions 2002 Report
It reads like a homophobe’s guide to where and where not to live in Australia. The Australian Local Government Association’s State of the Regions 2002 Report actually lists tables of the top 10 regions in the country in terms of the lowest and highest percentages of same-sex couples.
Moreover, it correlates these statistics against comparable figures from the US, highlighting, just as a matter of interest, the fact inner Melbourne tops the Australian table in terms of most homosexual couples at 8.8 per cent, while San Francisco, that fabled citadel of free love and flower power, comes in at "only" 5.4 per cent. Interesting without being in the least useful, most would say. But wait. According to the author of the report, the felicitously named Dr Peter Brain, a leading indicator of a metropolitan area’s high-technology success is a large number of same-sex household populations. That does not imply gays are smarter than heterosexuals or even that same-sex households dominate hi-tech regions, merely that a city’s tolerance and acceptance of diversity are keys to attracting talented people.
The higher the proportion of the workforce in the "creative class", the better chance of economic prosperity within the region. That, at least, is the creative capital theory imported from the US and applied by Dr Brain to the Australian situation. Crunching the homosexual index through its computers, along with a number of other "significant" influences such as the Bohemian index, which pertains to "informal street level variant of amenities" such as the local music scene, vibrant street culture, small art galleries and cafes, the local government association was able to "establish" which were the 10 most and least creative regions in Australia. Queensland, it would have to be conceded, did not fare well. It did not figure at all on the "super creative" table but had three listings among the bottom 10 regions.
All this was so much manna from heaven for State Opposition Leader Mike Horan who used Question Time in Parliament yesterday to flail the Government over its failure to deliver on its much-trumpeted, not to mention number plated, Smart State policy. And in doing so, he walked into an ambush, with Premier Peter Beattie immediately querying how the leader of the National Party, of all people, could place any credence in a report that uses same-sex households and the Bohemian index as measures of economic performance. It was amusing theatre but all it really demonstrated was the truth of the adage that if figures are tortured long enough, ultimately they will confess to anything.
The State of the Regions report serves an important function in identifying trends that, if allowed to run unchecked, would lead to a widening of the gap between the "have" and "have not" regions of Australia. The newly released report noted, for example, that the differential increases in housing prices across the country runs the risk of creating gulags, "chaining some households to the most disadvantaged regions just as efficiently as any Stalinist system". The New Economy, it could be argued, cannot be accurately measured by old, outdated means. But by any measure, it is stretching credibility to use sexuality as economic indicator.
Written on a Sunday Afternoon for Feast 2002.
What a wonderful word it is
That which describes
that to which we all aspire
But so it would appear
At least from where I stand
so few attain
At least in any meaningful amount.
I Have it –
I know I am right
and I know they are wrong.
I must be wise
At least wiser than they and them
And oh yes all those –
Commentators, umpires and soothsayers
Who tell me
What to think
What to do
And who to do it to.
Why else would Margie ask me here
To speak to you.
I am transgender
Doesn’t that give me insight
Haven’t I been where so few fear to tread
Down that long corridor
– to the theatre
Not the theatre where we act out our lives,
The theatre where they come with sharp instruments
And prescription drugs to kill the pain
While they cut away the offending parts
And make me new
or at least in the image of my god.
Would you do that?
Could you do that?
Could you – Imagine – giving yourself to the surgeon’s knife?
Trust – that is what you must have
– Lots of trust!
Trust in me because I am wise
"No! No! No!"
I can hear them all cry
"You are not wise
You are crazy
To give yourself to the surgeons knife".
No I am not crazy
For giving myself to the surgeon’s knife
To strip away the offending flesh.
Life – my life – was never possible with it
– I had to be rid of it!
You see –
I am a traveller,
On a journey
Not your journey
I don’t ask your companionship
But I do appreciate your friendship
Sit with me
– here, awhile
like some well known wedding guest
and listen to the leaves in the wind
the sea on the sand
that is wise
wise comes with time.
My wisdom may not be your wisdom
and my wisdom today may not be that tomorrow.
My wisdom today is:
They who have travelled with me
shared my journey
and given me the strength to go on.
Not one of them the whole journey – No
There are places they could not go
Places in my heart
Where they live
but do not see
Places in my head
Where they are
But do not enter.
But I am not special
Surely we all have these places?
Where the secret scenes of our theatre of life are played out
For none to see.
Where Shakespearian tragedies lie hidden
Behind a bhurka of tears and fears
And crazy ideas
That we dare not show
To the world
Not even those we love the most.
I know these things
Therefore – I know I am wise.
Haven’t I faced my fears
Haven’t I shed a million tears
Haven’t I raised a family
Haven’t I lost loved friends
Haven’t I been in love
In lust –
In fear of losing you.
Yes you –
After all why am I here if not because of you
How wise I must be.
For all these things I know,
And I know that these things I didn’t know,
When did I learn them?
In the surgeon’s theatre,
Did they cut away the penis
And insert wisdom?
Did they throw away testicles
And insert knowledge?
Knowledge is not wisdom
I know that
But can you have wisdom without knowledge
– question for another day.
So what is wisdom?
I fear it comes from living
I could tell you what I think is wisdom
But would it do you any good?
you have come all this way
I had better give you something to take away.
Wisdom is love
The wisdom to love yourself
You must do that –
If you don’t love you
I am bereft – How can I love you?
What does it say about me
What will they say about me?
"She loves someone who doesn’t love themselves!"
"She must be a little strange – I always knew it –
under all that make up and stuff,
trannies they are like that you know,
cut off her dick to fuck a man,
that is what she really wants you know.
Says she is a dyke,
As if – she would need to be a real woman for that.
"Once a man always a man
I know because I know"
How would he / she know –
Let a doctor cut of his dick – why would you?
Yes I have heard it all before
Said to me
Said about me
It is rather nice to be a topic of conversation.
But it’s got nothing to do with wisdom or love
So better to move on.
If you are wise
You will love yourself.
You will love being gay or straight,
Bi or queer.
And if I am wise
I will love you
For all the same reasons.
You see Wisdom is love
Not judging others
– For what they need to do to get through life.
I have a friend –
She taught me that
I remember it well
It was 1994 –
we shared a carriage for a short while.
Wisdom is time
Wisdom is loving
Wisdom is living
We don’t possess it all the time
It ebbs and flows like the tide
And the seasons.
Fear makes us lose Wisdom
I wonder if Fear isn’t the opposite of Wisdom
Do you notice how people cringe in fear
Of poofters and Dykes
Blacks and Boat people
Beggars and Cripples.
If you ask me
That is not wise.
Nothing to fear but fear itself
And if you are lucky
If you are loved
If your heart is open
And you do not rush to judge
Maybe that is wisdom
but who can really say,
October 28, 2002
Gay resort ‘first of many’
by Vera Devai
The owners of Australia’s most luxurious gay and lesbian resort which opened near Cairns say it is the flagship for many more to come. Liberty Resort Management Company director Marcus Bear said there were plans to build three more resorts along the eastern seaboard within three years. "We are now looking at a property in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney," Mr Bear said. The multi-million dollar Liberty Resort, on 3.2 hectares of lush tropical surrounds 25 minutes out of Cairns, is believed to be the largest gay and lesbian resort in the world. Mr Bear said it would service a previously ignored segment of the Australian travel market. While other gay and lesbians resorts existed in Australia they did not offer the "deluxe holiday experience" Liberty provided, Mr Bear said.
"There are resorts that don’t deliver the high-end expectations of travellers," Mr Bear said. The Liberty, which opened its doors to the public today, had a slow start but bookings were expected to pick up with the tourism boom predicted for the Gay Games which open in Sydney on Saturday. "There is an influx of bookings from the Gay Games from everyone coming on holidays from the … festivities in Sydney," Mr Bear said. "So we’re approximately 70 per cent occupancy over that week." Mr Bear said the majority of visitors were couples, with larger groups due in after the Gay Games and at Christmas time. – AAP
October 30, 2002
Creative, gay and bohemian–Melbourne
by Josh Gordon Canberra
Melbourne is the place to be gay and bohemian. The latest snapshot of the nation’s regions has suggested that Melbourne – with its vibrant street culture, gay community and population of artists, actors and musicians – is leading the nation and parts of the United States when it comes to "creative capital".
The report, from respected researcher National Economics, has found that Melbourne has a higher proportion of same-sex couples than Sydney and San Francisco and more bohemians per head of population than New York. Not only that, but the city’s creative energies could have inadvertently boosted the state economy. The report argues that creative capital has become one of the most important drivers of a region’s financial success. The author, Peter Brain, said cities such as Melbourne with cultural, sexual, ethnic and artistic diversity coupled with a vibrant street culture and night life tended to attract innovation and businesses searching for skilled and creative workers.
"Those whose skills are in high demand know it, and they are choosing to locate in communities and cities that please them, knowing work will follow," the report said. "The regions with the greatest concentrations of creative capital… are where there is the greatest levels of high-tech industries and innovation, producing superior economic outcomes." Using Australia’s 2001 census data, the report found that 8.8 per cent of inner Melbourne couples were same-sex, higher than Sydney on 5.9 per cent and San Francisco on 5.4 per cent.
The least gay region in Australia was Murraylands in South Australia, where only 0.3 per cent identified as being part of a same-sex couple. "Perhaps the most striking finding is that a leading indicator of a metropolitan area’s high-technology success is a large same-sex household population," the report said. It also found that inner Melbourne had a higher proportion of "bohemians" – people who identified themselves in the census as authors, musicians, composers, actors and artists – than New York, but a slightly smaller proportion than Sydney.
However, Professor Bob Birrell, from the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, said funding to encourage culture and diversity in the bush would do little to solve Australia’s growing problems of regional inequality. "It’s a real leap in the dark to say that if we just located more migrants in regional areas or somehow attracted gay people that we would therefore attract new economy industries," Professor Birrell said. "New economy industries such as business services, marketing, legal services and management advisory services, they’re just not going into regional areas. There are all sorts of factors that account for this which are much more important that any ambience of diversity."
In sharp contrast to the inner-city areas of the major capitals, the report claimed the nation’s most disadvantaged regions were turning into poverty gulags and would be unable to compete in the global economy unless governments took urgent action. It said most of Australia’s 65 regions lacked the creative capital to attract business entrepreneurial skill. It said the 20 per cent of the population with the highest incomes owned almost 35 per cent of Australia’s housing capital. Australian National University demography professor Peter McDonald said cultural vibrancy and diversity often increased around concentrations of younger workers. "Where populations are ageing dramatically, that vibrancy is much less likely," Professor McDonald said.
Dr Brain said the housing boom was preventing people from relocating to successful city areas, where the minimum cost of housing was at least $400,000. "The differential increase in housing prices across Australian regions runs the risk of creating gulags that are chaining some households to the most disadvantaged regions," he said.
November 10, 2002
Farewell. Thanks for having us to the Gay Games Sydney, say gays
by Andrew West, The Sunday Herald
The carnival ended for up to 15,000 athletes and spectators at Sydney’s Gay Games last night. Closing a week that was as much about partying as about sport, the participants packed the Showring at Sydney’s Fox Studios for a lavish closing ceremony. Sydney Lord Mayor Frank Sartor officially closed the event and handed over the Gay Games flag to a representative of Montreal in Canada, which will host the event in 2006. The closing ceremony, which was set to continue into the early morning, included a performance by cabaret star Tina Arena.
]Games organisers estimate the event has injected more than $100 million into the city’s economy. "We have exceeded the expectations of our overseas visitors and Sydneysiders," the Games co-chair, Peter Bailey, said. "It’s been incredibly rewarding to see this amazing event come together and to see the smiles of thousands of people who participated in the Games in some way." The event opened last weekend with an extravagant ceremony at Aussie Stadium, during which 35,000 people saw a performance by singer kd lang and heard a speech of welcome from High Court judge Justice Michael Kirby. In the six days that followed, more than 2,000 medals were awarded to athletes participating in 31 sporting events.
The Games drew participants from around the world including Jim O’Donnell, 39, from Washington DC. Mr O’Donnell won a silver medal in the ice hockey at this, his third Gay Games. He had previously participated in Amsterdam and New York. "Sydney was very welcoming," he said, "but on a more grand scale than, say, Amsterdam, which is a much more intimate place." Joel Mangs, 30, originally from Sweden and now living in Melbourne, was participating in his first Games and won two gold medals for figure skating. "The audiences have been amazing here and I can’t wait for Montreal in four years," he said. Eric Sabourin, 42, of Montreal, had some minor concerns about the lack of first aid at some track and field events. He finished up winning gold, silver and bronze medals in middle distance running. "Overall, these games have been very pleasant," he said.
November 7, 2002
Law reform gives gays new rights in Queensland
by Chris Jones
Schools will no longer have the right to refuse employment to gay and lesbian teachers on the basis of their sexuality under a shake-up of anti-discrimination laws. The laws, introduced to State Parliament yesterday, will allow people who have had sex change operations switch the gender shown on their birth certificate. And homosexuals living in a de facto relationship will be afforded the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.
The laws were introduced by Attorney-General Rod Welford without community consultation, triggering Opposition claims the Government was trying to sneak in radical social reform. But Mr Welford said the Government was simply bringing Queensland into line with anti-discrimination laws in other states. Homosexual support groups welcomed the changes but the Australian Family Association said the legislation would further erode the family unit. Mr Welford said the Beattie Government wanted to ensure Queensland was a tolerant and fair society where the human dignity of all people was respected.
"Of course we’re all entitled to be discriminating in who we choose as friends and who we choose to associate with and nothing in this legislation is about endorsing or condoning any particular lifestyle," Mr Welford said. "What it means is that it’s inappropriate for any of us to discriminate against people in the workplace or other aspects of their lives simply because of unjust reasons." Opposition Leader Mike Horan said his MPs had not yet had a chance to examine the legislation. Gay and Lesbian Welfare Association co-convenor Todd Buttery said it had been time for the legislative changes to be made.
"Queensland people are now ready to acknowledge the fact that their (homosexual) brothers, sisters, neighbours, doctors, lawyers and teachers are fantastic and there’s no need to discriminate against them just because of their sexuality," Mr Buttery said. "These laws are about being acknowledged as a human and to have the same rights as other people regardless of our sexuality." Australian Transgender Support Association president Gina Mather said she had been lobbying successive state governments for a decade to make the changes.
"It’s a major step forward to the quality of life for the girls because now they have equal access to what everyone else enjoys when they wake up in the morning," Ms Mather said. Rainbow Labor Queensland co-convenor Chris Vernon said the Beattie Government should be congratulated on the changes which would cement the ALP as the only party in the state with the interests of gay and lesbian people in mind. Australian Family Association Queensland president Arthur Hartwig said the changes showed bureaucracy had gone mad and would do nothing more than cheapen the institution of marriage.
Dr Hartwig said it would now be difficult to guarantee that homosexual teachers would not improperly influence their students. "These are not law changes calculated to improve the moral standing of the community or the honesty, integrity and the status of the family within the community," Dr Hartwig said.
10 November 2002
Tasmanian Council softens stance on gays
by Chris Johnson
Tasmanian Liberals voted yesterday to allow same-sex couples to legally adopt children where one partner is the biological parent. In a lengthy debate at the Liberal State Council, delegates weakened a motion opposing the Bacon Labor Government’s intention to allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt, by exempting parents who brought children into a same-sex relationship.
The original motion – condemning the State Government’s agenda – was put forward by Michael Ferguson of the West Launceston branch of the party. He said it was disgusting that the State Government had made no mention of this part of its social reform agenda when it went to the polls in July. But Young Liberals president Mo Sultan successfully moved to amend the motion and provide for homosexuals to legally adopt their partner’s biological children from a previous relationship. Mr Ferguson said he was embarrassed that the council supported a substantially weakened motion, which he hadn’t put forward.
"We have lost ground and I regret that," Mr Ferguson said. The motion is not binding on the parliamentary wing of the party. Opposition Leader Rene Hidding said later that while the issue was confused by the amendment, it was a strong expression against same-sex adoption. "The fact remains that all delegates appear to be fundamentally against same-sex couple adoption of children," Mr Hidding said.
"Personally, I believe that some 80 per cent of the Tasmanian population do not wish the Parliament to grant formal parenting rights to any two people who are of the same sex. "My consistent feedback suggests that there is broad agreement that the next generation of Australian children should have a reasonable chance of being raised by both a father and a mother." Mr Hidding will allow his members a conscience vote when the legislation comes before Parliament.
December 1 2002
Fostering shortage met by gay couples
by Kate Cox
The Sun-Herald Same-sex and transgender couples are being actively targeted by foster care organisations in an attempt to find homes for thousands of disadvantaged children.
Although Western Australia legalised gay adoptions earlier this year and Tasmania will from the middle of next year, same-sex couples in NSW are still not able to adopt children. There are almost five children for every carer and new Department of Community Services (DOCS) notifications every day. DOCS has 1,894 accredited foster carers. By June 30 last year, there were 9,151 children in out-of-home care in NSW – with 5,007 entering care during that year – but only 3,000 were in foster care. Leading foster care agency Barnardo’s regularly advertises in Australia’s national lesbian magazine, LOTL, and many others across Australia run fostering courses for gay couples.
Mary Jane Beach, treasurer of the NSW Foster Care Association, said foster caring had deteriorated immensely in recent years, with a major shortage of foster carers and abused and disturbed children being left without appropriate care for too long. Children in care need to live somewhere else because their parent or parents have drug, alcohol, crime or aggression problems and have either signed their children over to state care or cannot be found. Ms Beach said: "There is so much more reporting of children now and DOCS is so understaffed they don’t have the resources to meet all the complaints they get."
Although fostering by single parents is accepted by the public, she said same-sex couples still struggled for recognition and information, even though they made natural foster parents. "Often for some kids, the best thing for them is to be with a couple who don’t have children and they can get intensive one-on-one treatment," she said. "But the agencies don’t promote it enough. There are a whole lot of people out there that would be ready, willing and able to foster if they knew that they could. Often the workers have this ideal that every child will go to a mother and a father and two kids, but they haven’t caught up with the times. "In an ideal world, that would be great, but that just isn’t happening.
"Prejudice against gay and lesbian couples is alive and well. Often people are angry already because their child has been taken away from them so if they can rally against anything else then they will. And there’s still people in society that think gays are pedophiles, even though the vast majority [of pedophiles] are married men." When Luke, 4, is picked up from kindy by his doting foster mum Lauren – while his birth mother recovers from mental illness in hospital – his eyes light up and he jumps into her arms. "Mama!" he cries. "What’s for tea?" He has three mums and one dad – and that’s just the way he likes it. Lauren and her partner Jen were the ones who noticed his speech impediment last year. He is working with a speech therapist and teachers have remarked on how much more articulate and confident he has become. When Lauren met Jen four years ago, she saw no reason to stop fostering. "Kids don’t care whether you’re black, white or yellow. They just need a loving family. Gayness isn’t catching."
December 4, 2002
Gay Games Ltd unlikely to survive $2.5m debt
The administrator appointed to the company that ran this year’s Gay Games in Sydney says the company will probably have to be liquidated. Sydney 2002 Gay Games Limited was placed in voluntary administration on Monday owing an estimated $2.5 million to creditors. Administrator Peter Marsden says the financial problems seem to have arisen from revenue projections not being met during the games, held in the first week of November. "The timing was probably unfortunate. The Bali bombings in September had a significant impact on the number of people that actually came to Australia for the games," he said.
Sound and Lighting company Grafton supplied most of the equipment for the games ceremonies and is owed about $4,000. General manager Lex Strauss says he is disappointed. "It’s really upsetting because we’ve been a proud supporter of a lot of gay events, you know, the mardi gras, a lot of events in Sydney, and we supplied them with service for the Gay Games. I’m very upset," he said.
December 19, 2002
Australian Capitol Territory (Canberra) follows suit toward gay rights
by Stacy Farrah
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the ACT [Australian Capitol Territory (Canberra)] took a step towards equal rights this week, with chief minister Jon Stanhope calling for cross-legislation reform. Stanhope introduced the Legislation (Gay, Lesbian And Transgender) Amendment Bill, which would see discriminatory language taken out of 37 different pieces of ACT law.
Similar to the "missing pieces" bill which passed into NSW law earlier this year, this bill makes the ACT the latest state or territory to try to bring the wording of some of its older legislation into line. Western Australia passed similar laws in September, and took it further, granting adoption rights for co-parents, recognising co-parents in lesbian relationships and making 16 years the uniform age of consent for everyone, straight, gay, male or female.
The ACT overhaul did not deal with adoption rights or legal recognition of same-sex relationships, but those issues could be dealt with after consultation with community members and organisations, Stanhope said. Stanhope said the reforms had been on the agenda for the ACT for years. "Everyone is entitled to respect, dignity and the right to participate in society and to receive the protection of the law regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Stanhope said. "The ACT branch of the Australian Labor Party has had the removal of discrimination against gay and lesbian persons as part of its platform for a number of years.
The ACT government, like other Australian jurisdictions, is committed to moving on this issue." The next stage of law reform involved "more complex matters", Stanhope said, and required consultation. It would deal with the recognition of same-sex relationships in the law, the creation of anti-vilification legislation and the recognition of transgender and intersex people. The attorney-general’s office has created an issues paper outlining potential reforms for ACT laws.
The paper will be distributed to community groups and other interested people for comment. The results of the community consultation will form the basis of a report which will be presented to the ACT lower house on 1 May next year. "The feedback will also be used to inform the development of the stage two amendments and for any fine-tuning of the stage one amendments," Stanhope said.