February 2, 2009 – PinkNews
Gay judge who made history retires from Australian bench
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The first openly gay person to become a High Court judge in Australia has retied after 13 years on the bench. The Honourable Justice Michael Kirby was praised at a farewell ceremony in Canberra earlier today. He will be replaced by Justice Virginia Bell tomorrow.
Australia’s Attorney General Robert McClelland said: "You will hold a special place in the history of this Court. You have been tagged the Great Dissenter, but in reality you have played a vital part in the development of many areas such as the freedom of political communication. A right you described as belonging “as much to the obsessive, the emotional and the inarticulate as it does to the logical, the cerebral and the restrained." Unlike one or two politicians who fall into the first category, you will be remembered as the Great Communicator. Your judgments demonstrated your strong commitment to explain the law. And your willingness to speak on a wide range of topics has shown a commitment to demystify and humanise the judiciary."
Justice Kirby paid tribute to his colleagues and his partner of more than 40 years, Johan van Vloten, and said he still had a "naive" faith in the Australian legal system. He was legally required to retire by March 2009 when he turns 70. In an interview in 2007 he said he took his partner, "along to dinners with the Queen and with the Governor-General and everybody’s getting used to it." A year before Justice Kirby called on all homosexual people to come out of the closet and fight homophobia. He stated he did not believe that prejudice would be eradicated in his lifetime and he urged Australians to recall the formerly racist nature of their society, and realise that progress can be made.
He added that a fear of difference was behind prejudice against the LGBT community. "Such forces include the childish desire to erase differences in humanity and to stamp similarity and identity on everyone around us," he said. "It was this desire that lay at the heart of the former White Australia policy and of apartheid in South Africa. Prejudices and dislike will, ultimately, only recede when gay people themselves break the spell of silence and stand up to be counted."
The judge has always been forthright about his own sexuality, even mentioning his partner in Who’s Who. He faced criticism for admitting to a relationship with a man before 1984, when New South Wales decriminalised homosexuality. In 2002, homophobic senator Bill Heffernan used parliamentary privilege to accuse Kirby of ‘trawling for rent boys.
When the senator’s evidence was shown to be false, Justice Kirby responded: "I accept Senator Heffernan’s apology and reach out my hand in a spirit of reconciliation. I hope my ordeal will show the wrongs that hate of homosexuals can lead to."
February 20, 2009 – PinkNews
Gay Olympic hero to become men’s health ‘ambassador’
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
He may still be waiting for big name sponsors to beat a path to his door, but Australian diver Matthew Mitcham has been asked to take up an important role in his home country. He is one of three new ambassadors for the government’s men’s health policy. Health Minister Nicola Roxon paid tribute to Mr Mitcham, who won gold at the Olympic Games last year and was the only out gay man to compete in Beijing.
"He battled depression and anxiety, and retired from the sport in his teenage years after physical and emotional burnout," she said yesterday. " In 2007, he returned to diving and at the Beijing Olympics claimed gold." Ms Roxon had some difficulties last year when it emerged that one of her first choices for the health ambassador position co-authored an anti-gay, anti-transgender report.
Warwick Marsh, president of Fatherhood Foundation, was one of 34 co-authors of 21 Reasons Why Gender Matters, a report which calls homosexuality a mental disorder. Ms Roxon announced in November that Mr Marsh would no longer be an ambassador on the panel. "Mr Marsh has not repudiated his offensive comments. This makes his position as an ambassador untenable and I have made a decision to dismiss him from this role," she said. "I think these comments particularly about homosexuality are quite abhorrent."
Mr Marsh came under fire along with fellow ambassador Barry Williams, whose name also appeared as one of the co-authors of the offending document. Among other things, the report suggests that gay people are more likely to abuse children, be unfaithful or violent in relationships and abuse drugs. Mr Williams has since denied he shares the views set out in the document, or that he wrote the articles in question.
"Because I contributed to that organisation, doesn’t mean that I put the words in that magazine or had anything to do with it," he said. "I have no discrimination against gay people – I have a lot of gay friends and I worship their friendship." Mr Mitcham trains 11 times a week for the 2012 London Olympics. He became a hero to gay people across the world when he won a diving gold in Beijing. In a shocking upset, he took home a gold medal in the 10-metre platform event, beating the Chinese favourites. He was immortalised along with other gold medallists at the 2008 Beijing Olympics on a series of special commemorative stamps.
March 2, 2009 – PinkNews
Australian human rights consultation to focus on homophobia
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A National Human Rights Consultation meeting in Sydney next month will offer a "once in a generation" chance to tackle discrimination against LGBT people. Currently, Australia is the only western democracy which does not have a human rights act. Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes said that a lack of relationship recognition and ongoing gender identity discrimination are the "challenges" the country faces in terms of human rights.
He told the Sydney Star Observer: "This is a once in a generation opportunity. We want to see a stronger human rights culture in Australia, one that is going to challenge things like homophobia and bullying and discrimination. We’re the only western democracy that doesn’t have a human rights act. If we bring to the table an idea of the rights we have as well as a respect for the rights of others then we can reach a [workable model]."
The consultation is open to all individuals and groups who wish to participate.
In December, an Australian Senate committee recommended an inquiry into the need for an equality act banning homophobic or transphobic discrimination, following complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission. The AHRC is currently unable to protect the LGBT community fully as federal protections do not cover homophobia in the media or commercial services in the same way as other forms of discrimination.
Peter Johnson, of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said: "There is no place for discrimination against LGBT people in Australia. The need for comprehensive discrimination protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity should be a top priority for the government. With increasing interactions between the LGBT community and federal service providers following the recent same-sex reforms, the need for federal discrimination protection is more pressing than ever."
06 March 2009 – fridae.com
We’re here and we’re still political
by Justin Ellis
With the 31st annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade – the largest of its kind in the world – upon the city this weekend, Fridae’s Sydney correspondent Justin Ellis finds the parade to still be relevant to LGBTs today. Whether a pride parade is an accurate portrayal of the gay and lesbian community is a moot point. But, if the crowds, the paraders and the financial support from the NSW government are an indication, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade is here to stay. And while some scream commercialisation, others yell legitimisation and welcome the position the parade has taken in the mainstream since the early 1990s.
Seventy-six-year-old Steve Ostrow, project officer for the Mature Aged Gays (MAG) Project at ACON says the Mardi Gras parade is MAG’s opportunity to say, ‘Hey, we’re still here.’ "It’s a display of how far we’ve come," says Ostrow. "So MAG will be on our double-decker bus because some of us don’t walk so well anymore, and we’ll be saluting the world. We’ll be there to say, ‘we’re not extinct, we’re just old.’" Ostrow, former employer of Bette Midler and Barry Manilow at the Continental Baths in New York City, says the LGBT community is not fighting for the same things anymore and that’s why the debate continues over the supposed commercialisation of the parade. "We came from an era when if you danced with a man you could be arrested. We feared enticement as well, and entrapment." Ostrow, says that inevitably, older gay men have different concerns now to what they did in the 60s, 70s and 80s. He says the main question now is, "What’s going to happen to us when we’re old?’"
There are others in the gay and lesbian community who don’t share Ostrow’s view, and argue that the parade has lost its relevance. But it’s still relevant to the individual – every day people are struggling with their sexual orientation and gender identity and it is a show of support for them.
"Mardi Gras has always blended campaigning and entertainment and people have different views on how that should be weighted," says New Mardi Gras chair David Imrie. "Although New Mardi Gras creates the theme and some of the content of the parade the vast majority of entries come from community groups and individuals and so we don’t really determine the political content of the parade in any one year." But if nothing else, the parade is a barometer of the times, from the stars who head the parade, such as openly gay Australian Olympic diving gold-medalist Matthew Mitcham this year, to the politicians, the NSW police force (in uniform), the armed forces (maybe in uniform this year), and members of the Highschoolers Against Homophobia, and the Jewish and Christian communities.
And as a barometer of the times, it’s obvious that we’re living in a conservative age where we cannot take our rights for granted and cannot assume that they’re going to continue to grow in the direction we would like them to. Globally it’s looking like one step forward and two steps back. Even so, there is a palpable disregard for the parade in some quarters, even though it is one of our most visible avenues of consciousness raising, intra and extra community. A blasé attitude perhaps due largely to ignorance on the part of the spectators, including many of the gay contingent, who aren’t always aware of who is in the parade and why.
Imrie says this is why the theme Nations United was chosen for this year, namely to raise people’s awareness of the issues that are effecting the LGBT community around the world, and which therefore impact on us all. Or do they? We can champion civil unions in Ecuador on the South American float, but the two ‘Uncle Sam’s’ on the North American float are dancing to a backdrop of California’s Proposition 8.
Europe represents religious intolerance, as per the Pope’s recent allusion to homosexuals being worse for the planet than climate change. Asia is in the bamboo closet, the symbolism for Africa is AIDS education or lack thereof, and Australia represents a youthful country and the inherent issues of alienation and isolation that confront gay and lesbian youth. Antarctica is the new frontier – a place where there is no legislation for or against us, or anyone else. True equality.
So the Mardi Gras, thankfully, continues to evolve and reflect the mood of the age, and also continues to entertain a whole lot of people in the process; tens of thousands of participants and hundreds of thousands of spectators who are channelling their inner exhibitionist. The 2.4km parade will begin at 7.45pm on Saturday, Mar 7, at the corner of Elizabeth and Liverpool Streets, and continuing up Oxford Street and Flinders Street before ending at Moore Park Road intersection.
09 March 2009 – fridae.com
It’s a gay world after all
by Justin Ellis
Olympic gold medallist Matthew Mitcham led some 10,000 marchers through the city’s Oxford Street gay district in a colourful parade that showed its usual mixture of sequins, flesh and gay rights messages. Photos by Justin Ellis and Nat Cagilaba.
It was a very gay world at the 31st annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Saturday night as 10,000 paraders made their way up Oxford and Flinders Streets with an estimated 300,000 strong crowd watching the event. The difference between acceptance and tolerance was explicit this year, with over 12 floats making it clear that acceptance would only come with same sex marriage or an equivalent. Most issues, from gay marriage to the legitimisation of the sex worker industry, were presented explicitly as battles for human rights that are denied sexual minorities.
Religion, as always played a big part in many of the floats. The European section of the Nations United themed parade had a mock Benedict XVI in a pope-mobile speaking on a telephone – oblivious to the growing alienation catholic congregations are feeling around the world. A live Saint Sebastian covered in gold glitter represented the anguish LGBT Christians suffer for worshipping a religion that excludes them. David Imrie, New Mardi Gras chair said at a press conference earlier in the day: "We are marching under the Nations United banner of solidarity for the rights and freedoms of gay and lesbian people all over the world. There are still 77 countries where homosexuality is criminalised, and seven where you can lawfully be killed for being gay." Imrie made a stark contrast to the excitement and celebration of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras when he referred to the Moscow Pride march of 2007, where paraders were met with hostility and violence.
Chief of Parade Matthew Mitcham in his speech at the conference spoke of how he grew from being an ugly duckling to a trampoline champion and then went on to win gold in diving at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "Mardi Gras is the biggest celebration of homosexuality in the world and aims to promote not just the tolerance but the acceptance of the gay community in the wider community," he said. Mitcham, who’s reportedly the only openly gay competitor of the over 11,000 athletes at the Beijing Games, led the parade wearing his gold medal, surrounded by dancers in swimming trunks waving scorecards.
Dykes on Bikes were celebrating their 21st parade with other notable milestones including the 25th anniversary of the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, named after the first person to officially die of AIDS in Australia. The division of the 135 float parade into eight sections under the Nations United theme sent a more succinct message than in previous years. The first year of the Mardi Gras Parade Grant Scheme resulted in a more consistently spectacular parade, with A$25,000 being given over to advise entrants on how they could jazz up their floats. The grant scheme was set up with some of the A$85,000 given to New Mardi Gras by Events NSW, the first time the Mardi Gras parade has received state funding.
Floats in the Asia section of the parade included Thai’d Together, the Asian Marching Boys, In Support of Our GLBT Friends in Hong Kong by Andrew Haviland, Tranny Panic, Japan Loves You, and Filipino Victorian Secrets. Among the floats was a tribute to Harvey Milk, the gay US politician whose career and 1978 assassination were made into a movie that won two Oscar awards this year. Despite 28 arrests being made, Assistant Police Commissioner Catherine Burn praised the crowds for their good behaviour in a statement. Most of the arrests were in the Hyde Park area, and some of the offences included assault, indecent assault, offensive behaviour, offensive language, assault police, resist arrest, robbery and malicious wounding.
March 20, 2009 – PinkNews.com
Australian government to ‘block’ gay websites
by Emma Cullingford
A blacklist of banned websites drawn up by the Australian government includes gay sites. The government is proposing a law that requires internet service providers to filter and block inappropriate content, such as that related to terrorism and abusive images of children. It has drawn up a list of sites to be blacklisted. However, webpages such as gay and straight porn sites, YouTube links and certain Wikipedia entries have been included in its scope.
The blacklist of about 2,395 banned sites was obtained by Wikileaks, a website which allows anonymous whistleblowers to leak official documents. Wikileaks plans to publish the list on its website, having previously revealed the blacklists from Denmark, Norway and Thailand. The Sydney Morning Herald also gained access to the list and stated about half of the banned websites are not associated with child pornography.
The sites include online poker portals, YouTube links, gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia pages and the homepages of private companies and medical practitioners. The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, told the newspaper that secret censorship systems were “invariably corrupted.” He pointed to the example of more than 1,200 sites criticising the Thai royal family which were on the Thailand censorship list, originally created to prevent child pornography.
Mr Assange obtained the blacklist after ACMA added Wikileaks to its blacklist following the site’s decision to publish the Danish blacklist. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is investigating the leak of the blacklist and considering a range of actions including possible criminal prosecution. Senator Stephen Conroy, the communications minister, told the Sydney Morning Herald the leak and publication of the blacklist would be "grossly irresponsible" and undermine efforts to improve cyber safety.
Senator Conroy said: "Under existing laws the ACMA blacklist includes URLs relating to child sexual abuse, rape, incest, bestiality, sexual violence and detailed instruction in crime. No one interested in cyber safety would condone the leaking of this list." The blacklist is provided to makers of internet filtering software that parents are able to install on their PCs. However, if the government proceeds with its proposed internet filtering scheme, sites on the blacklist will be blocked for all Australians.
7 July 2009 – Sydney Star Observer
Poll ‘has wider scope’
The majority of Australians would support the introduction of Federal anti-discrimination laws to protect the GLBT community, a new Galaxy poll has shown. The poll, commissioned by the Australian Coalition for Equality (ACE), found 85 percent of people supported the introduction of laws to protect Australians from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender.
The results showed a relatively even spread of support across geographical and political boundaries — 91 percent of Labor Party voters supported the push, compared to a slightly lesser 83 percent of Coalition voters. Female participants showed a slightly higher level of support for new legislation as did white collar workers and capital city dwellers.
“The Australian people overwhelmingly want to live in a nation free from discrimination and our Federal laws should reflect that wish,” ACE campaign co-ordinatior Corey Irlam said, adding that the figures should be a “wake-up call” for the Australian Parliament. “LGBTI people continue to be harrassed at school, suffer employment discrimination and are discriminated against in aged care facilities. Legislation won’t stop discrimination, but it will provide recourse for those who suffer it and send a message to the community that it is no longer acceptable.”
PFLAG spokeswoman Shelly Argent agreed that anti-discrimination legislation could have an important impact on general community perceptions. “It would make people think before they act,” she said. “People would know that there would be strife if someone reported the discrimination. It would also give the LGBTI community the confidence to know they don’t have to accept discrimination and make them generally feel like their Government cared about them.”
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Co-convenor Benjamin Keats said the poll figures could play an important role in a number of reform areas. “With 85 percent of the Australian population supporting a removal of discrimination and inclusion of better protections, it certainly helps us in a number of areas,” he said. “At the moment we’ve got the adoption inquiry, so the poll supports that push for the removal of adoption inequality. It would also support the move to national consistency on co-mothering.”
30 Jul 2009 – Fridae.com
Australia’s ban on gay marriage to stay: PM
by News Editor
Just days ahead of Saturday’s same-sex marriage right rallies to be held in its seven capital cities, PM Kevin Rudd says that his government will not change its stance in only recognising marriage as being between a man and a woman. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Wednesday said his government’s position on same-sex marriage remained unchanged despite moves within his centre-left Labor Party to have the ban overturned. His comments come as same-sex marriage supporters have planned a 7-city rally on Aug 1 with the focus being in Sydney where the Labor Party’s national conference begins on Thursday.
"We are consistent with the policy we took to the last election," Rudd told public broadcaster ABC on Wednesday. Rudd, who defeated John Howard in the 2007 election, had said then that he supported the former conservative government’s legal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This week, the Labor Party in the state of Tasmania voted for the Marriage Act to be amended to allow for same-sex unions.
"I fully respect the integrity of other same-sex relationships … but in terms of the policy, it’s a matter to which we have been committed for some time," said Rudd who endorses a national "relationships register" provided it did not "mimic" marriage or undermine existing laws. " I fully accept it’s a matter of controversy, and there’ll be debate, and there should be. This is an open society where we can debate and discuss these matters." Rudd said his government had moved rapidly to remove the "other discriminations" in national law against same-sex couples in areas such as pensions, tax and employment.
A survey conducted for Australian Marriage Equality found 60 per cent of Australians were in favour of same-sex marriage. The poll of 1,100 respondents found that women were more likely to support gay marriage, with 65 per cent of them in favour compared with 51 per cent of men. Support for gay marriage was strongest among Australians aged 16 to 24, with 74 per cent in favour, compared with 45 per cent for those aged over 50.
25 August 2009 – Sydney Star Observer
Labels of no interest to youth
by Ani Lamont
The terms gay and straight are becoming increasingly irrelevant to young people, according to a recent study of secondary students and their sexual habits. Young people are increasingly identifying a sense of sexual fluidity or questioning, according to the results of the Secondary Students and Sexual Health survey released by La Trobe University.
According to the survey of students in years 10, 11 and 12, the number who identify as exclusively gay has fallen by 2 percent since 2002, while the number who are attracted to both sexes has risen by 1.4 percent and the number questioning rose marginally. Boys in particular were becoming more comfortable with reporting their bisexuality, with 5.1 percent reporting an attraction to both sexes in 2008, compared to 2.3 percent in 2002. The likelihood for young men that they’d had a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex also rose from 2 percent to 8 percent.
The figures are indicative of the questions being raised by young people accessing Twenty10, according to its director Rebecca Reynolds. "I think that fits in with what we hear young people talk about that it’s not about people identifying themselves one way or the other, it’s about exploring the options and not putting labels on it," she said.
"For people to be talking about a general sexual diversity, that is good and it means we are starting to do things right and there are places being created where young people can feel safe to explore those things. Definitely more people are coming to us to ask about those questions and to ask if they have to identify as gay or they have to identify as a lesbian, or if its OK to be attracted to sometimes boys, sometimes girls. All of that labelling type of stuff. I think young people’ and it might be to do with the internet are so much more in touch with it. I don’t know if it’s new, but it’s reaching this critical mass where there’s this level of empowerment from the internet and all of those communities you can exist in, so that fluidity is OK and people are starting to develop a language about it. It’s new in the sense that we don’t have the words yet to deal with it."
14 September 2009 – SouthernStar
Majority want marriage
More than half of Australia’s gay and lesbian population wants to be married, according to a University of Queensland survey.
by Ani Lamont
According to Not So Private Lives, the first national poll of gay and lesbian relationship preferences, 54.1 percent of those surveyed would prefer to be married. A further 80 percent thought the option should be open to gay and lesbian couples in Australia. Rates of support for gay marriage were even higher among young people, with 65 percent of people under 20, and 62 percent of people under 30, stating they would prefer to have the option of marriage.
“The findings work to dispel the myth that most same-sex people do not wish to marry or are content with de facto status,” researcher Sharon Dane said. “This majority preference for marriage may be a reflection of the fact that fewer same-sex couples feel the need to live their lives in secret. Although same-sex sexuality is still stigmatised at some level, a generally less hostile environment means same-sex couples can live their lives more openly and honestly and in doing so with to be treated like everyone else.”
The results of this survey have been submitted to the Federal Senate inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009, which is currently investigating a change to the Marriage Act to allow same-sex marriage.
To further read the survey’s findings visit.
September 30, 2009 – PinkNews
Tasmania to give gay couples official ceremonies
by Jessica Geen
Gay couples in the Australian state of Tasmania will soon be able to have an official ceremony in which to register their relationships. Currently, couples can have a Deed of Relationship, which is the Tasmanian form of a civil partnership. However, they can only hold informal ceremonies. The change, from November 1st, means that they will be able to sign their Deed of Relationship in a ceremony presided over by a marriage celebrant and in front of their friends and families.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome welcomed the initiative, saying: "This provides same-sex and other couples with a way to have that ‘special day’, on which they officially declare and affirm their relationship in front of friends and family members.
"Tasmania led the nation with the establishment of our registry of personal relationships, and now it is leading with official ceremonial recognition of these relationships." He added: "Tasmania’s Relationships Act is a sound body of law based on equity and fairness, but until now that body has lacked a heart."
Those who have a Deed of Relationship have virtually the same rights as married couples in both state and federal law and are also recognised as civil partners in countries such as the UK. Since the scheme began in 2004, 145 couples have registered their relationships. Although the new ceremonies come into law on November 1st, they will not be available until a month later, due to a 28-day period in which applications for Deeds of Relationship are processed.
6 October 2009 – The Star Observer
Tasmania closer to ceremonies
While gay activists hold their breath over moves in the Australian Capital Territory to include ceremonial aspects in the territory’s civil union scheme, Tasmanian couples will soon be able to register their relationship during a ceremony. The Tasmanian Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages has confirmed a change in procedure in the state’s Deed of Relationships scheme will give same-sex couples — along with opposite-sex couples — the option to legally sign a relationship certificate during a ceremony in the presence of a celebrant. The change takes effect from November 1. The Registry office will provide new ‘decorative’ certificates especially for the occasion and can now backdate the official date to the ceremony day.
The change does not enhance the powers of civil celebrants to declare a legal relationship for same-sex couples during a ceremony. Certificates must be lodged with the Registry. Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said he welcomed the change. “This provides same-sex and other couples with a way to have that ‘special day’, on which they officially declare and affirm their relationship in front of friends and family members,” Croome said. A Registry spokeswoman told Sydney Star Observer demand from couples wanting certificates to mark their relationship on the ceremony day had pushed the change.
13 October 2009 – The Star Observer
‘Prove you’re gay’
by Ani Lamont
Bangladeshi couple may have to have sex in front of witnesses to prove they are gay in order to secure asylum in Australia. The couple, who cannot be named, have been told to prove they are gay when they appear before the Refugee Tribunal for the fourth time in more than 10 years. Their barrister, Bruce Levet, said short of forcing the couple to have sex in front of witnesses, physically proving their sexuality was difficult.
“I’ve been bending over backwards to try and think of some way to prove these guys are gay,” Levet told Sydney Star Observer. “They don’t frequent gay bars, they are in a monogamous relationship — so it’s not like we can do what would be easiest to do, to get stat decs from different blokes they’ve slept with. One of them is a particularly private person, and they don’t live in mainstream gay society — so it’s incredibly difficult trying to prove this.
“They don’t really know anyone in gay society. They’re not frequenters of gay establishments, they came here together, they’ve lived together exclusively for 20 years.” The couple came to Australia in 1998 and have been fighting for asylum since then on the grounds that, as gay men, their lives would be at risk if they returned home.
Originally, the Refugee Tribunal ruled the pair would be safe to return to Bangladesh if they lived discreetly. That decision was overturned by the High Court. However, afraid of a pink tide of refugees, the Commonwealth tried to prove the couple were not gay. At their second tribunal appearance the men were forced to undergo DNA testing to prove they were not related after it was suggested they were brothers. The tests proved they were not related on the maternal side, but paternal tests were inconclusive and the tribunal ruled the pair were not gay.
At the third tribunal appearance one of the men was asked if he had sex that day and, when he answered yes, if he had used lubricant. When he refused to answer, he was ruled a dishonest witness and the application was again denied. Levet said he may attempt to get a gay or lesbian psychiatrist to provide evidence or, as a last resort, ask the couple to have sex in front of a witness. “They’ve said, if worst comes to worst, they’ll do it but they’d regard it as horribly embarrassing and terribly intrusive,” he said.
“I think the assumption is, because these guys are gay, they must live in some sort of bathhouse environment. I want to find a way to disprove this without subjecting them to that.”
November 4, 2009 – PinkNews
Lesbian mothers in Tasmania get legal recognition
by Jessica Geen
Lesbian mothers who are not the biological parents of their children have been granted legal recognition by Tasmania’s legislative council. The move means that they will be listed as parents on a child’s birth certificate, rather than having to go through costly adoption procedures. The new right was granted in a unanimous vote and has been extended to apply retrospectively back to 2003.
Gay rights campaigners on the island have been campaigning for equal parenting rights for years. The bill was first introduced in 2003 but was struck down. Rodney Croome from the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group told ABC News that the move would benefit children.
He said: "It means those children will now have the benefits which include of course greater legal, emotional and financial security of having two legal parents, both of them mothers, rather than just one legal parent, that has been the case up until now which of course has been their biological mother."
In September, the law was changed to allow gay couples to hold official ceremonies to celebrate their Deed of Relationships, which are the Tasmanian form of civil partnerships. The change, from November 1st, means that they will be able to sign their Deed of Relationship in a ceremony presided over by a marriage celebrant and in front of their friends and families.
November 11,2009 – MSN Lifestyle
Australian territory becomes first to legalise gay unions
by Agence France-Presse,
An Australian territory became the first to legalise civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples, in a move supporters hoped would spark national momentum. An Australian territory became the first to legalise civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples, in a move supporters hoped would spark national momentum. Under the new laws, gay couples will be able to hold a legally recognised civil union ceremony in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), home to the nation’s parliament.
The region’s legislators approved the bill on Wednesday, moved by the ACT Greens party, after an amendment banning heterosexual couples from being recognised under the system. The amendment means the law will not go against national legislation that says civil unions must not mimic marriage. "We understand that this is not same-sex marriage," said Greens MP Shane Rattenbury, who drafted the bill.
"This legislation is another step along the road to full equality for same-sex couples in Australia, and we are delighted that the assembly has passed it today," he added. The law could yet be struck down by Australia’s attorney-general, who overturned a similar bid in February 2008 on the grounds it broke national marriage laws.
It was the second time the national government had quashed gay marriage legislation in the ACT, after a previous attempt to instigate same-sex unions in 2006. But ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope has said opposition is now "muted" and he was hopeful the law would be allowed to stand, despite a cross-party rejection of gay marriage at the national level. The ruling Labor party voted in August to uphold Australia’s gay marriage ban, but the government has also passed legislation to remove same-sex discrimination from almost 100 national laws including areas such as pensions, tax and employment.
November 23, 2009 – PinkNews
Australian prime minister challenged on gay marriage by party
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Kevin Rudd, the prime minister of Australia, has been challenged by his party to pass legislation allowing gay marriage. The Australian Labor Party in the state of Victoria passed a resolution in support of marriage equality last weekend. It is supported by ministers and calls for the law to be changed to allow "equal access to marriage, regardless of the gender of either partner".
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, it reads: "Victorian Labor believes that people are entitled to respect, equality, dignity and the opportunity to participate in society free from hatred or harassment and receive the protection of the law regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity." Rudd has been a steadfast opponent of gay marriage rights and said this week that his government may veto for a third time laws recognising civil partnership ceremonies in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
The ACT legalised civil partnerships ceremonies for gay couples earlier this month, making it the first territory in the country to do so. The bill, sponsored by the ACT Greens party, was approved by legislators after an amendment was inserted banning straight couples from having a civil partnership. This means the ceremonies will not "mimic" marriage. Gay couples living in the ACT have been allowed to register their partnerships since 2008 but until now, have not been allowed to hold a ceremony.
24 November 2009 – Australian Aginging Agenda
A new report from Alzheimer’s Australia estimates there could be over 37,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people with dementia in Australia by 2031. The ‘Dementia, Lesbian and Gay men’ report warns that non-heterosexual people may fear ‘coming out’ to service providers and may experience negative encounters with staff and fellow service users. It also said gay men and lesbians are twice as likely to live alone, putting them at greater risk of depression and social isolation. The CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glenn Rees said the report highlighted the lack of research in this area.
“I think we have raised an issue that was a bit of a sleeper issue,” he said. “There probably needs to be a higher level of awareness, education and training in this area. The good news is that there are quite a lot of things we can do. I think, for example, that there is a lot of potential for discussing gay and lesbian issues in the context of person centred care.”
The report suggested that aged care services use brochures with inclusive images and intake forms that allow people to declare a partner of either sex. It also recommended that gay literature and publications be made available to residents and clients. The report was launched in Sydney by former High Court Judge, Michael Kirby, who praised Alzheimer’s Australia for exploring the issue.
“Many of those now beginning to face problems of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, represent the first generation of people living openly, or semi-openly, without shame or undue fear because of their minority status,” he said in the foreword to the report. “Law reforms are being proposed and adopted to remove many of the residual legal disadvantages faced by sexual minorities. However, discriminatory attitudes and some discriminatory laws still remain.”
November 25, 2009 – PinkNews
Gay couple have Australia’s first legally recognised civil union ceremony
by Jessica Geen
Warren McGaw and Chris Rumble have become the first Australian gay couple to have their civil partnership ceremony legally recognised. The pair, who have been together for nearly 20 years, held their ceremony yesterday afternoon at the Old Parliament House rose gardens in Canberra. They are the first to take advantage of new legislation passed in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) earlier this month. However, the right may not last for long as prime minister Kevin Rudd has said he will overturn the law.
MacGaw told ABC News: "We thought we’d take this opportunity not only for gay couples Australia-wide … but just for human rights. I think the majority of Australians are behind us." But he added: "We’ll be really disappointed and devastated if [the law] gets overturned. But we took the opportunity today to have the legal ceremony as the law stands today. We couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be more delighted."
The bill, sponsored by the ACT Greens party, was approved by legislators at the beginning of this month after an amendment was inserted banning straight couples from having a civil partnership. This means the ceremonies will not "mimic" marriage.
Rudd has already overturned similar legislation three times and attorney-general Robert McClelland said this week that the Federal Government would be asking the ACT to amend the new law. He did not state what changes would be made. Regardless of any changes made, civil union ceremonies performed while the law stands will still be recognised, he added.
November 26, 2009 – PinkNews
Australian government backs down on civil union ceremonies
by Jessica Geen
The Australian federal government has opted not to quash laws allowing legally-binding civil union ceremonies for gay couples in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). After discussions, the government agreed that the ceremonies could remain, although some minor changes have been made. The legislation was passed earlier this month. Gay couples will now have to register their intention to have a civil union ceremony. The changes will be made when the ACT Legislature Assembly next sits but those who tie the knot in the meantime will not be affected.
Attorney-general Robert McClelland’s office said: "The discussions between the Australian government and the ACT government about the Civil Partnerships Act were conducted in good faith, and the matter has been resolved satisfactorily." Gay rights advocates have cautiously welcomed the concession, but say they are concerned that the proposed amendments will not be legally binding and that the ACT’s gay community has not been consulted.
Australian Coalition for Equality spokesperson, Corey Irlam, said: "The critical difference between the ceremonies originally sought by the ACT and those allowed by the federal government is that the latter have little legal effect, leaving the formal declaration of a civil partnership in the hands of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and not in the hands of civil partnership celebrants.
"It is step forward that Prime Minister [Kevin] Rudd has backed off from a veto, but the system the ACT government has now accepted is still essentially a paper process without ‘legally-binding’ ceremonies." Irlam reaffirmed gay groups’ commitment to gay marriage. "Regardless of whether a civil partnership ceremony is legislative or binding, full legal equality for same-sex couples will only come when marriage equality is achieved." he said.
On Tuesday, Warren McGaw and Chris Rumble became the first Australian gay couple to have their civil partnership ceremony legally recognised. The pair, who have been together for nearly 20 years, held their ceremony at the Old Parliament House rose gardens in Canberra.
25 November 2009 – Fridae
Circumcision protects gay men who have a ‘preference’ for insertive sex from HIV
by Michael Carter, Aidsmap.com
Circumcision may protect gay men who are exclusively insertive for anal sex from infection with HIV, an Australian study published in the November 13th edition of AIDS suggests. But this finding is based upon just seven infections amongst men who expressed a preference for insertive sex. The investigators found that amongst the men who reported only insertive sex as a behaviour, circumcision did not significantly reduce the risk of infection with HIV.
The study also showed that overall circumcision did not protect gay men from infection with HIV. Earlier data from the study presented to the conference of the International AIDS Society in Sydney in 2007 showed that circumcision had no protective effect. Gay and other men who have sex with men continue to be one of the groups most affected by HIV. Consequently, there is a need for new approaches to HIV prevention in this population. Studies in Africa have shown that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection for heterosexual men. However, a recent meta-analysis found no conclusive evidence that circumcision was protective for gay men.
Researchers from the Health in Men (HIM) study therefore investigated the relationship between circumcision and the risk of HIV infection in a population of 1426 HIV-negative gay men in Sydney. In total, 938 of these men were circumcised The men were recruited between 2001 and 2004 and followed until the end of 2007. On entry to the study, the men reported their circumcision status and this was confirmed by clinical examination.
Every six months the men attended for a follow-up visit when they were tested for HIV and the men were asked if they had had unprotected anal intercourse. In addition, individuals were also asked to say if they were insertive or receptive, and if they had a strong preference for adopting the insertive position. A total of 5161 person years of follow-up were available for analysis, and the median duration of follow-up for each man was 3.9 years. There were 53 HIV infections, providing an overall incidence of 0.78 per 100 person years.
Statistical analysis that included the entire study population showed that circumcision did not provide any significant protection against infection with HIV. Only 10% of the study’s person years of follow-up was contributed by men who reported insertive unprotected sex but not receptive sex without a condom. There were only four HIV infections in these men. Analysis showed that circumcised men who only reported insertive unprotected sex did not have a significantly reduced risk of HIV.
Next the investigators restricted their analysis to men who stated a preference for the insertive position in all anal intercourse. These 435 men (279 of whom were circumcised) contributed 1710 person years of follow-up. There were a total of seven HIV infections in these men, five of which were in the uncircumcised men. Statistical analysis showed that circumcision was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of HIV infection for men with a preference for insertive anal sex (p = 0.049). This association was strengthened when the investigators adjusted for age and potentially serodiscordant unprotected anal intercourse.
However, three of the men with a preference for insertive sex reported unprotected receptive anal intercourse. But the study’s lead author, Dr David Templeton, told aidsmap.com that men expressing a preference for insertive sex adopted this position in almost 99% of instances of anal intercourse. It is of note, however, that the investigators do not comment on the possibility of study participants providing inaccurate information about their sexual preferences or behaviour to the investigators. It is of note that for reasons of social desirability receptive anal sex is consistently under reported by gay men.
Nevertheless, the investigators comment: “Being circumcised was associated with a significant reduction in HIV incidence among the one-third of participants who reported a preference for the insertive role in anal intercourse”. A total of 9% of HIV infections in the cohort could, the investigators conclude be attributed to being uncircumcised. “Among participants who preferred the insertive role in anal intercourse, the estimate proportion of HIV infections that could be attributed to being uncircumcised by 75.7%.”
They do however acknowledge that “the key limitation of our analysis was lack of power due to relatively small numbers of HIV infections in the HIM cohort and the low incidence of HIV infection among predominately insertive men.” The investigators call for randomised controlled trials to further explore the relationship between circumcision and the risk of HIV for gay men. Such studies could, however, be difficult to design and the investigators question if they would be worthwhile. They note that the studies “would require high HIV incidence, low baseline circumcision prevalence and large numbers of participants exclusively or predominately practicing the insertive role.” The investigators emphasise that “such attributes are necessary for sufficient study power to detect an association between circumcision status with the relatively infrequent outcome measure of HIV acquisition via insertive anal intercourse.”