January 4, 2003
Issue of homosexuality looks certain to tear Anglican Church apart
The church is dangerously divided. Divisions so deep cannot be smoothed over, writes Barney Zwartz. If Sydney archbishop Peter Jensen accepts oversight of English congregations, it could take the Anglican Church a significant step closer to self-destruction. Knowing that, he is more likely to help broker spiritual leadership acceptable to those churches than to take the role himself. As a senior Melbourne Anglican said: "Were he to agree to that, it’s schism, and that’s not the path he wants to go down. Schism leads to disintegration." Archbishop Jensen declined to visit Canada last September to help churches unhappy with the decision of New Westminster diocese to bless same-sex unions.
He preferred to wait for the communion authorities to act, particularly the Archbishop of Canterbury. Well-informed Sydney Anglicans yesterday suggested that for English dissidents "there will be oversight offered, but perhaps not from Sydney". But even if Dr Jensen does take the most conciliatory path, the issue of homosexuality – ordaining practising gay priests and blessing same-sex unions – seems certain to rend the Anglican Church apart. The Anglican communion is a broad and generally tolerant church, but it is dangerously divided on this issue. The Sydney diocese – which strongly opposes blessing same-sex unions – is deeply conservative by the standards of Anglicans in the West.
But Western numbers are overshadowed by growth in the Third World, particularly Africa. The black church, which lives cheek by jowel with Islam and is sensitive to Muslim accusations that it condones immorality, also abhors homosexual marriage and ordination. A flashpoint will come this year, when the church in America is expected to endorse homosexual unions at its three-yearly convention in Minneapolis – perhaps the biggest threat to Anglican unity in the communion’s 450-year history. Most of the 38 Anglican primates will pressure Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams not to agree. He will be in an impossible position. Divisions so deep and strongly felt cannot be smoothed over, and he personally is a leading advocate for legitimising homosexual marriage and priests – the stance that led to the invitation to Dr Jensen. That invitation is significant also because it marks Dr Jensen’s emergence on the world stage. It shows he is increasingly recognised by the conservative evangelical constituency as a world leader.
East Central Highlands (Victoria State) attracts gays
by Mariza Fiamengo
The East Central Highlands region of Victoria is home to the most gay and lesbian couples outside Sydney or Melbourne. The 2001 Census shows that almost 0.45 per cent of residents in the spa country, which includes Daylesford, reported they were in a same-sex de facto relationship. Sociologist Bob Birrell, of Monash University, has mapped where gay couples live around Australia. He has found that they preferred to live in Australia’s two main cities.
Gays and lesbians represent 2.24 per cent of the population in inner Sydney and 1.16 per cent in inner Melbourne. Mr Birrell also found that gay and lesbian people made-up a very small percentage of the population in regional towns. In Ballarat they made up 0.09 per cent of the population (74 people). Similarly, in Bendigo they made up 0.07 per cent of the population (53 people). However, the East Central Highlands region goes against this trend. It boasts more same-sex residents than these major cities, even though it has a much smaller population.
Hepburn Shire Council CEO Victor Szwed said several factors may have made the region popular with the gay community. Good restaurants, cafes, its close proximity to Melbourne and the cosmopolitan and diverse population of the region were some of them, he said. "Compared to other country towns it is very vibrant, diverse and tolerant," Mr Szwed said. "It’s a cosmopolitan community, its facilities, restaurants, cafes, bookstores and healthy lifestyle image attracts a lot of people." He said the council did nothing specific to attract the gay community to the region.
"They are just part of the community, just like other people in the community" he said. "We don’t have any special policies towards them." Daylesford business operator and the former president of a well-known local gay event the Chill Out Festival, Chris Malden, said many gays and lesbians who wanted to move away from Melbourne’s busy lifestyle saw the region as a great alternative lifestyle. "A lot of people like to step back from it (Melbourne) and establish themselves with a quality lifestyle," he said. "And Daylesford with its proximity to Melbourne, arts scene, good cafes and restaurants offers them that." City of Ballarat Mayor David Vendy said Ballarat’s low homosexual population reflected trends in most regional cities.
He said many minority groups felt more comfortable in big cities, where they could find more people with similar backgrounds. However, he said the council was trying to make the city more appealing to minority groups.
At A Glance Same sex couples around Victoria: East Central Highlands: 165 people, 0.44 per cent of the population. Ballarat City: 74 people, 0.09 per cent of the population. Inner Melbourne: 2773 people, 1.16 per cent of the population. Greater Bendigo: 53 people, 0.07 per cent of the population. Greater Geelong: 135 people, 0.21 per cent of the population.
17th January 2003
Archives of an era of gay revolution–25 Years
by Carolyn Webb
When a police detective rang the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives in the early 1990s, volunteer Graham Carbery’s heart skipped a beat. There was much suspicion then between police and gays. But it emerged that the detective was investigating a gay murder. He hoped that a back copy of a gay newspaper, ‘Melbourne Star Observer’, would provide a clue to the case.
Carbery was happy to help. This year is the 25th anniversary of the archives, housed in the basement of the Victorian Aids Council building in South Yarra. Carbery says it was the first, and is the biggest, archive of its type in Australia, and is the first port of call for students, academics, writers, journalists – and the occasional policeman – researching the social history of gays in Australia. Carbery, 56, a TAFE teacher and former VFL senior umpire, was also a high-profile, gay liberation activist in the 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1978, as a member of the Gay Teachers’ and Students’ Group, he co-wrote a book called ‘Young, Gay and Proud’, a "coming out" guide for gay students. The book horrified conservatives, but appeared in many high-school libraries. In the late 1970s, when political activism became less important to many gay men, Carbery worried what would become of the gay newspapers, books, photos and ephemera that recorded the few previous revolutionary decades. And so he started storing protest flyers and social club newsletters in a filing cabinet in his Flemington home, and that was the start of the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. After being housed in a string of different premises around town, the archives moved to the Victorian Aids Council in 1999. The resource now contains more than 15,000 periodicals, 40,000 newspaper clippings, several thousand books, hundreds of slogan-adorned T-shirts (e.g. Dyke: Just Do It), badges, posters, private diaries and oral histories.
Membership is $20 a year, but most income comes from donations and publishing, such as the release of Carbery’s 1995 book, ‘A History of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’. The archives are run by about 15 volunteers, who collate and catalogue the items. One volunteer is sorting through masses of social photos donated from a defunct street magazine. Among the archives collection are the logbooks of a gay counselling service that operated in the 1970s. Radicals who die or move house often bequeath boxes of possessions to the archives.
In 1984, the celebrated Melbourne lesbian Ethel May "Monte" Punshon – who died, aged 106, in 1989 – donated an album of newspaper clippings from the 1920s and ’30s. It is a window into the era’s coy media coverage of lesbians. Most of the articles provide only subtle clues about their subjects’ orientation – women dressed in suits, lovers described as friends. But Punshon knew many of them and kept the articles for posterity. One article in the album describes the "ingenious masquerade" of a Mrs Valerie Smith, who successfully posed as a man – under the name Victor Barker – in England in the 1920s. The article says that "Barker" married a woman, Alfreda Emma Haward, in 1923 at St Peter’s Church in Brighton, England, after a two-year courtship. The bride’s parents were present, and were unaware Barker was a woman.
The bride’s mother thought Barker "seemed to be a fine, manly fellow, and he knew how to make love to a girl". Carbery describes as "a gem" a recent donation – a cardboard-covered book of poetry, bought in an op shop by an archives member late last year for $10. Inscribed in pencil on the inside cover are the words: "To my friend, from his friend, the author of these verses, London, July 1920, love (a man’s name)". The yellowed pages within it contain more than 20 poems, dated between 1906 and 1919 and written in an elegant black ink script. On the book’s cover is a Victorian country address, through which the archives compilers hope to find out more about the poet.
The library is something Carbery is still passionate about, as well as proud. "It’s the major public collection of gay and lesbian material in the country," he says. "There are individuals who have quite substantial private collections. But the thing that’s most important about ours is it is accessible, not only to the gay and lesbian community, but to the wider community. "Numerous times, we’ve had people who come to use the collection, and they’ll say, ‘I haven’t been able to find this stuff anywhere else’. "We’ve got complete sets of most of the major Australian gay and lesbian publications, such as ‘William and John’, from 1972, which was the first commercial gay publication; complete sets of ‘Campaign’ and ‘Outrage’ – very important publications from the past. If you go to universities, you might find some issues, but you won’t find complete sets, most probably. And so someone who’s doing research can come here and it’s all in the one place."
March 12, 2003
Hundreds (many phony) write to oppose pro-gay reform
by Lucy Spurgeon
Same-sex couples should not be allowed to adopt children, according to most public submissions to the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute. Institute director Kate Warner said that she had received about 600 submissions on the issue by the time the response period to the group’s discussion paper closed on Monday. About two-thirds of the submissions were against any change. However, Professor Warner said that a number of submissions were from one church group which had collected signatures against the proposed changes to legislation.
While Prof. Warner said that multiple copies of the same submission did somewhat defeat the purpose of the exercise, she said that the institute was still interested in the responses. "It’s not really a numbers thing," she said. "It was never a public opinion poll, we just wanted letters from people. "A lot of people argued that it was not normal (for children to be brought up by same- sex couples), that it was not in the best interest of the child."
Prof. Warner said that a number of people had also challenged the social research from which the institute had quoted in the discussion paper, which showed that there was no developmental difference between the children of heterosexual or homosexual couples. "A lot of people thought that the research was flawed," she said. The institute must present its final report and recommendations to the Attorney-General Judy Jackson by the end of April or early May. The report was ordered as part of Ms Jackson’s plans to amend the State Discrimination Act, removing discrimination from gay and lesbian couples and allowing them similar rights to heterosexual couples.
March 12, 2003
Cabinet Secretary told by PM he must approve same-sex adoptions
by Martine Haley, Chief Political Reporter
Cabinet Secretary Steven Kons has been told by Premier Jim Bacon he must support legislation to approve same-sex adoptions, or else. After revealing on radio yesterday morning he was undecided about whether he would exercise a conscience vote on the controversial issue, Mr Kons later backed down and denied he would split with the ALP on the issue. "I haven’t decided which way I am going to be voting at this stage," Mr Kons said on morning radio. But by afternoon, and after Mr Bacon had made it publicly clear he would not tolerate a conscience vote, Mr Kons’ position had changed to: "I, like all my Cabinet colleagues, support efforts to remove discrimination from our laws. It is utter fabrication to suggest I am somehow at odds with members of my own party."
Speculation has been rife within political circles for months that Mr Kons and possibly others within the Bacon Government are angry at Attorney-General Judy Jackson’s proposal to allow gays to adopt. In a bid to capitalise on the Labor split, the Liberals have repeatedly called on the Government to allow a conscience vote on the issue.
Opposition Leader Rene Hidding has said the Liberals will be allowed a conscience vote. "It is unacceptable for the Bacon Government to gag its own members on an issue it knows will cause some of them considerable difficulty," Mr Hidding said. Mr Bacon tried to downplay Mr Kons’ comments. "People say lots of things on radio. I wouldn’t put too much drama into a few words that someone said," Mr Bacon said. "The fact is it will be a party decision on the legislation when it is introduced and I’m certain the Government will be voting as one on it."
Mr Bacon said Labor did not allow conscience votes on legislation to remove discrimination. Mr Kons’ comments will have done nothing to endear him to senior Labor figures. When first elected to Parliament in 1996, Mr Kons was mooted as a serious ministerial contender, but missed out on a Cabinet portfolio last year. At the time senior Labor sources said Mr Kons was on notice to lift his performance, or face a backbench career. If Mr Kons were to break with the party line on the gay adoption issue he would face internal disciplinary action and possible expulsion from the party. The Law Reform Institute, which is investigating the same-sex adoption issue, has received about 600 submissions, 500 of which oppose law reform to allow gay couples to adopt. Legislation to remove discriminatory laws across the statute books and including adoption legislation are planned to be introduced in the first half of this year.
15 March 2003
Gay teacher, 70, banned from Catholic schools
by Susan Hewitt
A Geraldton teacher with nearly 40 years experience has been banned from Catholic schools because he lives with a man. Tweed Harris works as a relief teacher in six primary schools in Geraldton and has worked in primary schools and kindergartens for 38 years. But because he is a practising homosexual, the Catholic Education Office has told him he cannot teach in any of its WA schools.
Mr Harris, 70, said no school had complained about his homosexuality until he published his autobiography last month. In it, he said he had been homosexual his whole life and married to a man for seven years. The book quickly became well known in the Geraldton community, according to Mr Harris, and this week, while working at St Lawrence’s Primary School, another teacher questioned him on his living arrangements. Mr Harris had worked three days at the school since the book was published. School principal Sister Marie Townsend then phoned Mr Harris on Thursday and said he would not be working at the school again.
"I was told I was living in a relationship that was not in keeping with the ethos of the Catholic Church," he said. "I was not sacked because I am gay but because of my relationship. "If I went around sleeping with everyone instead of being committed to one person and lied to them about my sexuality, I could still work there." St Lawrence’s was the only school that had complained, he said. Catholic Education director Therese Temby said Mr Harris’ open homosexual relationship put him in breach of his employment contract.
The conditions of employment for all teachers in Catholic schools say they must follow a manner of life and stated beliefs in keeping with Catholic Church teachings. "Mr Harris is certainly a practising homosexual in a public forum," Mrs Temby said. "That is not a manner of life in line with Catholic teaching." Someone who thought of himself or herself as homosexual but was not involved actively in a homosexual relationship could teach in a Catholic school, she said. "(Mr Harris) living in the relationship is the point that is not acceptable," Mrs Temby said. "There would be some people who think they are homosexual but would not be in any relationship at all. They could be homosexual but not active in any way."
Mr Harris conceded he was in breach of his employment conditions and said he was aware Catholic schools were exempt from equal opportunity legislation in hiring teachers. He was concerned about what the policy taught students if schools expelled qualified people who honestly represented themselves. He would continue to teach in government schools in Geraldton which had accepted his relationship.
May 29, 2003
Jesus was gay – $51,000 says so
by Tess Livingstone
Jesus was gay – the University of Queensland gave $51,000 of public money to a PhD student to reach that conclusion.
Melbourne-based Rollan McCleary, who will today be awarded his doctorate, earned $17,000 a year to work on his three-year thesis on homosexual spirituality. As well as his revelation about Christ, Dr McCleary has also reached the conclusion that three – or possibly four – of Jesus’s chosen disciples were also gay. A former Paris radio broadcaster, Hong Kong teacher and graduate of London University, Dr McCleary lived in Brisbane while completing his thesis. He now lives in Melbourne, where he hopes to pursue postdoctoral studies with the aim of making gay spirituality a separate academic discipline.
Dr McCleary also believes that gay people find it easier to be Christian. "You don’t have to be gay to be Christian, but it would be easier," he said. Gay people, he said, were "looking for the ecstatic", sometimes in harmful ways, but were more inclined to be visionary and open to the transcendent. He said Jesus’s astrological chart, clues in the scriptures to which the churches had been blind and accurate biblical translations had all played a part in his conclusions.
"The starting point is the matter of John, who always referred to himself as Jesus’s beloved disciple," Dr McCleary said. In a forthcoming book, he attempts to present St John’s gospel in a new light to back up his claims. "If you assume that Christ was incarnate, there are perfect theological and mystical reasons to point to his sexuality," Dr McCleary said. Gay spirituality, he said, had begun with Christianity then fanned out to other religious such as Buddhism. An Anglican and a qualified reader of astrological charts, Dr McCleary is open about being gay himself. – The Courier-Mail
July 17, 2003
Uniting Church set to approve gay ordinations
by Barney Zwartz, Religious Affairs Writer
The gay lobby in the Uniting Church of Australia claimed victory in the homosexual clergy battle after passionate debate yesterday in which it became clear they had the support of the vast majority of delegates. The national assembly in Melbourne adjourned the proposal to make the church the first Australian mainstream denomination to ordain practising homosexuals, but it seems certain to pass today.
"When you see the numbers now, we will not in fact be stopped," said Uniting Network spokeswoman Reverend Dorothy McRae-McMahon, who outed herself as a lesbian at the 1997 Perth assembly. "There is 85 per cent agreement." But evangelicals spokeswoman Mary Hawkes warned that there would be an exodus of church members if the proposal was approved. The proposal, intended as a compromise, allows churches to choose practising homosexuals as clergy, but imposes no obligations on those who object.
In the various shows of approval by which the assembly finds consensus, only a dozen or so of the 265 delegates were hostile. "This is not primarily about sex," Ms McRae-McMahon told the assembly. "I’ll be 70 in a few months, I’m not on sexual adventures. This is about love, it’s about the freedom for people like me to love another person body, mind, heart and soul – as you are permitted to." She said it took her nearly 50 years to accept who she was, and ending her 32-year marriage was the hardest thing she had done. Ms McRae-McMahon warned that the consequences of rejecting homosexuals could be grave. "Suicide is a real risk for people who are rejected by their families and by the church."
Townsville pastor Ann Harley said she felt betrayed and angry. Two churches she ministered in had been devastated on this issue, losing 150 and 250 members, "people with energy and vision and leadership, and probably half a million dollars a year". "I could have walked down the road Dorothy McRae-McMahon walked down, but in God’s good grace I was led to wholeness," she said. "Without truth, the church will lose its prophetic voice." Victorian moderator Alistair Macrae said supporting the proposal would indicate a mature church, which for 15 years had studied, debated, postured, retreated and anguished. "If we can hold unity on this, it will powerfully witness to Jesus Christ.
Ministers and church leaders need no longer live in fear of their character or vocation being questioned," he said. Mrs Hawkes, chairwoman of Evangelical Members of the Uniting Church, said there was widespread hurt, anger and resentment that the church had put aside Scripture in favour of secularism. "God does not have two minds on sexuality." She said the assembly was not listening to ordinary members. The Reverend Sealin Garnett, the United Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress chairman, said that for cultural reasons it was difficult for Aborigines even to discuss such matters in public, but they did not believe homosexual practices were right or godly.
However, in a considerable surprise, the spokesman for ethnic and migrant churches – traditionally among the strongest critics of homosexuality – endorsed the proposal. The Reverend Liva Tukutama, emphasising that he spoke only for himself, said he saw parallels between the struggles of the gay community and migrants. The assembly yesterday voted former general secretary Gregor Henderson president-elect, beating two surprise final candidates. One was Melbourne minister Jason Kioa, a Tongan who 20 years ago this week was locked up in the Maribyrnong Detention Centre. After a five-year case that went to the High Court, he won the right to stay in Australia. The other was Queensland youth worker Bruce Moore.
5th September, 2003
Australia’s same-sex laws breach rights: UN
by Meaghan Shaw, Canberra
Australia is obliged to amend discriminatory legislation against same-sex couples following a landmark United Nations decision that is expected to have global ramifications. The UN human rights committee said Australia breached its international obligations by denying the gay partner of a deceased war veteran a pension and bereavement payment. Sydney man Edward Young took his case to the UN in 1999 after he was denied entitlements following the death of his partner of 38 years, World War II veteran Larry Cains.
The Veterans’ Entitlement Act limits the definition of "couple" to married and heterosexual de facto partners. The UN committee found the Government had breached the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees equality before the law. It said the Government, a signatory to the covenant, was obliged to amend the law and ensure similar violations did not occur in other legislation. Australian National University law academic Wayne Morgan said the decision had ramifications for superannuation, taxation, social security and defence force laws. It would also apply to other signatory countries. "Globally it is the most significant statement that a UN body has ever made about the equality rights of same-sex couples," he said. Mr Morgan acknowledged the committee could not enforce the decision, but said if Australia ignored the ruling it would add to "Australia’s ever-worsening human rights reputation". The Government has 90 days to respond.
A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Daryl Williams said the Government took its human rights obligations seriously – both domestically and internationally. She said Mr Young’s case was considered under Australian law and rejected by the Australian Repatriation Commission, the Veterans Review Board and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. "The Government notes the committee is not a court and its views are not binding," she said. Australian Democrats justice spokesman Brian Greig said he would reintroduce the party’s 1995 anti-discrimination bill following the ruling.
Mr Young took his case to the UN as a matter of principle, justice and equality before the law. "The Government was refusing to honour Larry’s war service and was refusing to treat him the same as heterosexual veterans," Mr Young said. "The Government seems to think it is okay for gay men and lesbians to fight and die for their country, but still wants to treat us like second-class citizens when it comes to recognising our relationships."
26 October 2003
Gay couples miss out on military aid
by Kerry-Anne Walsh, Political Correspondent, The Sun-Herald
The Federal Government has blocked the partners of same-sex couples in the military from receiving the benefits of a generous support program. Launched two weeks ago by the Minister Assisting the Defence Minister, Mal Brough, the Services Workforce Access Program for Partners offers a package of measures to help the partners of defence force personnel who are shifted around. "The mobile lifestyle of ADF members often hinders a partner’s ability to find suitable employment, and this can affect not just the family’s income but also their relationships, morale and lifestyle," Mr Brough said.
A spokesman for Mr Brough confirmed that the program could be accessed only by those partners in heterosexual relationships. The spokesman said denying the benefits was in line with the way the Government legally defined de facto or married couples. That definition only applies to opposite-sex couples. However, it is understood there are no legal or other impediments to the Government extending the program to homosexual couples if it wanted to. As it is an administrative program, Mr Brough could decide eligibility and all other rules governing its running.
6th December 2003
Transvestite ‘Bright light’ dies in gutter
by Tony Wall, Police Reporter
To the alumni of universities in Indonesia and Sydney he was known as Lee Zainal, a brilliant chemistry teacher. On the backstreets of Kings Cross where he struggled to make a living as a transvestite prostitute, he was known simply as "China". Mr Zainal’s transformation from gifted teacher to homeless prostitute might never have been known were it not for his murder last weekend. The 46-year-old former chemistry and Sunday school teacher was stabbed nine times about the neck and upper body in Rosella Lane, Darlinghurst, about 1.10am last Sunday.
Police are investigating whether it was a random attack or if the killer was a client. Yesterday they displayed the clothing Mr Zainal was wearing ˆ a leopard print blouse, black mini-skirt and brown wig ˆ in the hope of prompting witnesses to come forward. Mr Zainal had been working as a prostitute in the area for about four years. He would stay out all night, then have breakfast at the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Matthew Talbot Hostel ˆ where he would also help organise mass on Sundays.
It was a far cry from the bright young chemistry teacher who arrived in Sydney in 1994 ready to retrain and start a new life. A Chinese Christian, Mr Zainal had been persecuted in Muslim-dominated Indonesia. Being gay and single did not make life any easier. He did a masters and PhD program in inorganic chemistry at the University of NSW from 1994 until about 1998, when his life began to fall apart. Those who knew Mr Zainal in his academic life were shocked to hear what had become of him. Indonesian Community Councils of NSW president Alan Gerungan said he met Mr Zainal several years ago.
"Why did he become so desperate? What changed him from an academic to ending up in the gutter and dressing like a woman? It is a mystery," he said. Mr Zainal was granted an extension to his visa until 1999, but appears to have decided to drop out of society to avoid being sent home. He left the flat he was renting in Kingsford, cut all ties with his church and the Indonesian community and hit the streets.
‘The Daily Telegraph’ has obtained a copy of an unsuccessful asylum application Mr Zainal made to the Department of Immigration in 2001. In it, he spoke of how he was taunted by Muslim students at university in West Java. They threw stones at his window and even killed his pet dog, Rambo. "They said: ‘Why are you still single? Why are you not married? You are half a man, not a perfect man’," Mr Zainal wrote. He feared being targeted by "terrorists" if he was sent back to Indonesia. Matthew Talbot Hostel manager Sue Bowen said Mr Zainal never spoke of his secret life. "We never saw him in drag at all. He never let on that he did that," she said. "If people came in here who knew what he did, he wouldn’t speak to them. "It was a very separate part of his life." She said it was obvious when talking to Mr Zainal that he was an "extremely learned man". She suspected he had turned to prostitution in desperation so he could continue to send money home to his family. Ms Bowen said St Vincent de Paul would arrange a funeral service for Mr Zainal if his family could not afford to fly his body back to Indonesia.
PS: Personal note from friend of Zainal Re: Bright light dies in gutter.
Dear Everyone, We’re forwarding this news reporty because of the questions it asks, and the answers that we will never know. Interesingly the surviving protagonists talk of the horror of this poor "man" dying in the gutter, and of course he was gay, and of course he was in fear of his life should he be sent back to Indonesia, and yes ‘he’ was a "transvestite prostitute". But no one dares discuss his transgender status other than in the context of his trying to make a living. He could just as easily survived (or not) as a male prostitute in the Cross, but he ‘chose’ to dress as a woman. No one that ‘knew’ him ever saw him in drag – what does this say about the relative guilt in this society of being gay and homeless vs being transgender, Don’t so many of us have such a long way to go in a world were violence is always the answer. Cheers, Jenny Scott
December 29, 2003
Gay couple first on ‘marriage’ register in Tasmania
by Carol Altmann
Michael Carnes and Bob Lavis will make national history this week when they legally register as a gay couple in the state once considered a hotbed of homophobia. As of January 1, Tasmania will be the first state in Australia – and one of only a handful in the world – to allow same-sex couples to register their relationship and gain full access to the medical, superannuation, carer and parental entitlements of heterosexual couples. The sweeping reforms passed earlier this year by the Bacon Labor Government stand in sharp contrast to Tasmania’s reputation as a place of little tolerance towards same-sex couples, with homosexuality deemed a criminal offence until just five years ago.
"What these changes do is send absolute alarm bells to all those who have been discriminatory in the past that those days are well and truly gone," said Mr Carnes, a gourmet chef, who was forced to leave a job 12 years ago because of his sexuality. "Tasmania now has it all – the natural beauty, the fantastic people and now reforms that show we are no longer a backwater, but a wonderful, open society." The Relationships Act recognises a range of "significant" relationships, including that between a person and a long-term carer, or elderly friends who live together.
Registration is voluntary, but Mr Carnes, 42, and Dr Lavis, 50, who have been partners for 17 years, decided to take the symbolic step of being the first to front the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages when it reopens on January 2. "We are lucky in that we have always had incredibly supportive families and we are now in a pretty comfortable position, but there are so many young people out there who still face discrimination. Our getting registered is more about the symbolism of being able to take this step; that the discrimination must stop," Mr Carnes said.
ANZ chief economist Saul Eslake said Tasmania stood to benefit economically by openly displaying its tolerance of gay relationships. "It is about presenting a different face to the world. This move is highly relevant to Tasmania’s efforts to change its image and attract what (US professor) Richard Florida calls the creative classes to the state," Mr Eslake said. – The Australian
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5 January 2004
Gays adopt Tasmania
by Anne Barbeliuk
Tasmania has shed its image as the homophobic capital of Australia to become the nation’s No. 1 destination for gay people. Progressive laws and a positive community attitudes towards homosexuality have led to a surge in gay and lesbian migration to the state. Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said yesterday the state’s image had turned 180 degrees since he led the fight for law reform in 1997.
Tasmania’s progressive attitude towards gay and lesbian couples gained national attention last week when the state became the first in Australia to allow same-sex couples to legally register their same-sex union with the office of births, deaths and marriages. The reforms give same-sex couples equal status to married couples under the law. Mr Croome said such laws, as well as the change in public opinion that had accompanied them, had put Tasmania on the map. He said Tasmania had now become a top destination for gay and lesbian couples and those aged in their 30s and 40s.
"Tasmania is definitely the No. 1 spot to go," he said. "People who want to get out of the hurly burly of Oxford St (Sydney) are coming to Tasmania." In the past, Queensland and country areas of Victoria and NSW were considered attractive destinations, but now Tasmania holds the most appeal. "All those destinations have been eclipsed by Tasmania." Mr Croome said people were moving to the state for a variety of reasons, including lifestyle, cheap real estate and a growing economy. But he said none of them would head here if not for the law reforms. He said the migration began with a trickle after 1997 but had now turned into a tide.
"The fact the changes have been so positive and so thorough have really encouraged people to move here." Mr Croome said everyone he had been in contact with who had moved to Tasmania had been emphatically happy with their decision. "Every single one I have spoken to has said Tasmania exceeds their expectations, in terms of their welcoming here and their experiences. "I have not heard of anyone talking about a negative experience."
Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Jocelynne Scutt said claims relating to discrimination on the grounds of homosexuality had decreased in recent years. Dr Scutt said that when the commission first began in December 1999, there was quite a number of claims, but they had decreased. Dr Scutt said Tasmania was becoming renowned both nationally and internationally for its positive position on human rights. "We are really leading the way," she said.
May 27, 2004
Australia Bans Same Sex Marriages
by Rod McGuirk CANBERRA, Australia
Australia’s conservative government introduced legislation to ban same-sex marriages and wants immigration rules to stop gays and lesbians from adopting foreign children. Prime Minister John Howard, who is struggling in opinion polls ahead of an election expected later this year, announced changes to the country’s marriage law on Thursday. The amendments are all but certain to be enacted by Parliament after the opposition Labor Party declared its support.
The process should take several weeks. Australia’s federal government is responsible for laws on marriage and immigration. But the country’s six states regulate adoption. Some could object to Howard’s plan anti-gay and lesbian adoption push, although the Labor opposition said it has yet to make up its mind on the issue. In a concession to gays and lesbians, the government has also announced that same-sex partners will be recognized for the first time by federal authorities as dependents.
This means a gay or lesbian will be able to get a partner’s state-paid pension paid out after his or her partner’s dies. Previously only married and common-law partners and children had this right. Howard scoffed when asked if the gay marriage changes were designed to split the opposition Labor Party, whose leader, Mark Latham, also has said he opposes gay unions. "I believe in this," Howard told reporters. The changes "wouldn’t be coming forward if I didn’t believe very strongly in both of them." In the past, Howard has said he believes marriage is for procreation.
30 May 2004
Dreaming of a royal gay marriage
by Simon Bevilacqua
Rodney Croome dreams of the day two princes with golden epaulets walk down the aisle to be wed. And the world looks on in celebration. "I believe it could happen," the Tasmanian gay and lesbian rights campaigner said. "It may take some time, maybe years, but change can happen. We’ve shown that with gay issues in Tasmania.
"It’s inevitable that gay marriages will be recognised in an increasing number of countries. In that way, it’s inevitable there will be princes marrying princes and princesses marrying princesses". The day the world celebrates the marriage of gay royals would be a fairytale come true for Mr Croome. He said there would be some debate about whether the two princes would become kings and queens. "I think they would be kings," he said.
Australia and Denmark are regarded as leaders in gay rights but neither country recognises gay marriage. Mr Croome said the celebration of love between Princess Mary and Prince Frederick was beautiful because it was clear they were in love. But the idealisation of the marriage of wealthy heterosexual royals had drawbacks. "There’s a danger in the exclusive focus on the royal marriage over other relationships which are just as real and loving," Mr Croome said. "There’s no doubt in my mind people can love each other for the rest of their lives, my point is it can happen between two people of the same sex and it would be an amazing day that the public celebrated that love like they have with Mary and Frederick".
Mr Croome said there was a danger in the huge public response to Mary and Frederick that marriage would become a fetish. "More and more importance is being put on the celebration and the beauty of the dress and the bands of gold, not on the love and commitment of the people involved," he said.
Activist Transgender Librarian to stand for election
Just a short note to let you know that after being approached by the Australian Democrats ( http://www.democrats.org.au/ )National Campaign Committee I have agreed to stand in the No.5 spot on their South Australian Senate ticket. This became official as of last Thursday and that is the reason my candidacy was not publicised when the rest of the team – John McLaren, Ruth Russell, Tammy Franks and Trevor Tucker – was launched a few weeks back.
I consider it a great honour to get the chance to participate in the democratic process at this time when many of the democratic freedoms that we take for granted are at risk. Being No.5 my chances of being elected are not good unless my 6 degrees of seperation come down to 1 degree and South Australian’s come to know me by association and believe that I can bring some very real difference to Canberra.
To comply with the Australian Constitution I must resign my position at the State Library for the period of the election, however there are provisions under the PSM Act for me to be reinstated should I not be elected. Please feel free to pass this on, I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
October 11, 2004
Australian Gays Fear Massive Swing To Right Following Election
by Peter Hacker (Sydney, Australia)
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has coasted to an unprecedented fourth term on a conservative platform that has many members of the LGBT community concerned will result in the roll back of gay rights. Howard’s coalition will control both houses of Parliament, signaling alarm from activists like Rodney Croome. Prior to the election, Howard’s government passed legislation tightening restrictions that prevent same-sex couples from marrying. "The recent same sex marriage ban was a walk in the park compared to what’s in store", Croome said Sunday. "Gay parenting, gay characters on television, gay partnership registries and gay anti-bias laws will all now be in the Government’s sites",
Australian Democrats’ Brian Greig, who is openly gay, was defeated at the polls eliminating a powerful voice for the gay community in Parliament. The first foreign leader to congratulate Howard on his win was George W. Bush. The Australian PM has been a regular visitor to the Bush ranch in Texas, and reportedly discussed and sought advice from Bush prior to introducing the anti-gay marriage bill in Parliament.
Australia has one of the largest foreign contingents in Iraq. Howard Sunday promised to keep the army there "until the job is done". Howard’s Coalition will control the Senate with the help of the Family First Party which has an extreme rightwing anti-gay agenda. Among the Family First candidates elected was anti-gay campaigner Michael Ferguson in Bass who told supporters his success was "ordained by Jesus". Croome had tough words for the Labor Party which voted with Howard’s Liberal Coalition to pass the marriage bill and drew the ire of gays, many of whom supported the Greens in cities like Sydney. "Labor must heed this message and develop a stronger, unqualified policy on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality," Croome said.
Island nation declared for gays
This week we highlight a group of angry Aussies who have defected to a desert island in the Pacific Ocean in protest at the Australian government’s ban on gay marriages. The group have declared the Coral Sea Islands as the first independent gay state and are now encouraging gays and lesbians to move there.
It’s no hoax – they are deadly serious about their claim to the islands because they are furious at the way the government treats gay people. When the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands gets its tourism wing up and running we’ll be the first to take a holiday there.
The group have refused to take the appalling discrimination meted out by the government and have pulled off a stunt which is sure to get the world talking. It’s the kind of clever, original, creative campaigning the gay community used to be famous for but which we see so little of these days. Let’s hope Australia changes its mind or the tourists might just be spending their pink pounds in the Coral Sea instead next year. For more information please visit the Kingdoms official web site www.gaykingdom.org
December 1, 2004
Mainstream Australia against same-sex marriages
by Greg Ansley, Australia correspondent Canberra
Gay and lesbian couples have little hope now of marrying in Australia, with a report confirming that a ban on same-sex wedlock has widespread support. The Institute of Family Studies report says that while there are indications that Australians are gradually becoming more tolerant, some of the strongest opposition to homosexuality is found among the young.
And most Australians oppose the right of gays and lesbians to marry and adopt children, resisting a global push by homosexual couples and supporting the rejection of new marriage laws promoted by both the Government and Labor in August. Last month the South Australian Government withdrew a bill that would have given gay and lesbian couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, but excluded homosexual marriage, adoption, and access to reproductive technology. "Our knowledge of attitudes regarding same-sex relationships is patchy but the general picture is that the typical Australian is strongly opposed to homosexuality," the report says.
It shows that the nation’s estimated 41,535 gay and 28,144 lesbian couples tend to live affluent, comfortable lives but suffer from laws that discriminate against them. Gay and lesbian couples tend to be much more highly educated than their heterosexual peers, are more likely to be professionals and tend to earn considerably more. But federal law prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriage, and all states, except Western Australia and Tasmania, ban the adoption of children by gay or lesbian couples.
Recent reforms to WA family law treat same-sex couples like married couples in regard to children, property, maintenance and financial agreements. Tasmania will register – without recognising marriage – same-sex relationships, allowing the adoption of a partner’s children, access to their superannuation, the authority to authorise medical treatment and the right to inherit. But in SA and the Northern Territory, laws governing financial agreements after separation for same-sex couples do not apply for gays and lesbians and, while the other states confer the same rights for same-sex couples as for de facto relationships, they do not provide the rights federal law provides for married couples.
All states except WA and Tasmania ban the adoption of children by gay and lesbian couples. And while every state recognises the male partner of a woman undergoing artificial conception as the father of the child, none except WA gives a lesbian partner the same legal standing. The report says that most Australians support the restrictions, with 60-70 per cent opposed to homosexuality and against giving the legal rights of married couples – including adoption – to gays and lesbians.
29 November 2004
Twenty percent of Australian lesbian couples have kids
by Rex Wockner
About 20 percent of Australian lesbian couples have children living with them, a study presented by the federal minister for family and community services has found. The report, Diversity and Change in Australian Families, also found that 5 percent of gay-male couples have kids living with them, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Nov. 24.
Research author David de Vaus of La Trobe University suggested there are 28,144 lesbian couples and 41,535 male couples in Australia, which has a population of 19,913,144. Single gays and lesbians with children were not included in the study. De Vaus also found that gay and lesbian couples are more educated than their heterosexual counterparts — with coupled gay men twice as likely as coupled straight men to have a college degree.
Coupled homosexuals also make more money than coupled straight people. Thirty percent of coupled gay men are in the highest income brackets compared with 23 percent of coupled straight men. Twenty-three percent of coupled lesbians are in the highest income brackets compared with 7 percent of coupled straight women. Forty percent of the coupled homosexuals have no religious affiliation compared with 15 percent of coupled heterosexuals, according to the Sydney Morning Herald’s summary of the data.
December 9, 2004
Gay rights rollback threat in Western Australia
by Stacy Farrar
West Australian Liberals Call For The First Rollback Of Gay And Lesbian Rights In Australian History.
In a week that saw 500 protesters deliver 24,000 letters supporting gay rights to South Australian parliamentarians, plans to withdraw gay and lesbian rights in Western Australia have emerged. Western Australian opposition leader Colin Barnett confirmed this week he planned to raise the age of consent for gay men from 16 to 18 and ban same-sex couples from adopting if the Liberal Party won next year’s state election. “I do not support gay parents having adoption rights,” Barnett told The West Australian. “I don’t doubt the ability of gay couples to be very caring but parenthood is essentially a man and a woman. I also happen to believe that the age of consent for homosexual relationships is 18.” Barnett said the reforms were not discriminatory against the gay and lesbian community: “What I don’t agree with is when activists try and undermine the institutions of society in the name of equality.”
WA became one of the country’s most progressive states in terms of gay and lesbian rights when the Labor government introduced sweeping reforms two years ago. The reforms lowered the age of consent from 21 to 16, gave legal recognition to non-biological same-sex parents and legalised co-adoption for same-sex partners. Barnett’s “Family First” policy outlining the reforms has been on his personal website for the past two years. Rod Swift from Gay and Lesbian Equality WA said Barnett’s “terrifying” policies would put the state’s social justice policies back 25 years. “The thinking behind it is ‘we can support marriage and families by stripping gay people of their rights’,” Swift told Sydney Star Observer. “It’s like saying, ‘There’s a huge road toll, let’s stop giving gay people their driver’s licence.’ It’s a nonsense policy, it shows they’re making policy on the run and shows their hard-right agenda.”
Premier Geoff Gallop, whose government introduced the 2002 reforms, said the policies showed the Liberals were not focused on big issues. “My government is about getting more police on the street. Colin Barnett is about getting more police in people’s bedrooms.” The Equal Rights Network said the rights rollback plan highlighted the need for a national bill of rights, to enshrine legal equity in the Australian constitution. Spokesperson Jen Van Achteren said gay rights advocates from all Australian states would work together to support the gay and lesbian community in Western Australia. “We will do all we can to uphold principles like equality and to stop police being sent back into the bedroom.”
Meantime, 500 gay men, lesbians and supporters held a kiss-in protest on the steps of South Australia’s Parliament House this week. Speakers, including former Australian Medical Association head Kerryn Phelps, told the crowd the South Australian government had “buried” a Bill aimed at updating 83 pieces of legislation to include gay and lesbian couples. The Bill was sent to the state upper house, where activists expected it to languish in a committee inquiry for at least a year. Greens MP Kris Hanna said in doing so, the government had “crumpled under the pressure of propaganda from the religious right”. “Unless we want to go back to the 1960s and outlaw homosexuality, there can be no justification for treating gay and lesbian people as second-class citizens with respect to superannuation, property and taxation law,” Hanna said.
Gay and lesbian rights group Let’s Get Equal delivered 24,000 submissions in support of the Relationships Bill. Let’s Get Equal spokesperson Matthew Loader said the huge community response would hopefully encourage MPs to speed up the reform process. But he said the delay could actually work in the gay community’s favour in the long run. “The more you struggle, then the greater the win in the end, and the stronger the overall community and political support will be in the future,” he said. “Which means it will be harder to undermine it later, and the chances of what’s happening in WA at the moment happening here will be slim.”