Good news from Down Here – equality one step closer

November 24, 2008 | By | 8 Replies More

In the aftermath of California’s passing of the shameful Proposition 8, I bring good tidings (and hope) from Australia. I’ll post most of the article From the Canberra Times because it’s short and to the point:

Gay and lesbian couples are a step closer to equality before the law after two Bills passed through the Senate.

The laws would extend the definition of a de facto relationship to include same-sex couples and allow homosexuals to leave superannuation entitlements to partners.

The Bills also guarantee equality in tax, social security, health, aged care and employment.

Labor senator Penny Wong, who is openly gay, said the laws would deliver the sort of equality before the law that same-sex couples have never experienced.

”They [the Bills] deliver on a very important election commitment on an important day for us,” she told the Senate.

Uniting Care Australia’s national director Lin Hatfield Dodds applauded the Bills, saying it was ”about time” they were passed.

”These Bills are about citizens having equality before the law,” she said. ”They should cut across party lines, because it’s about respecting the inherent dignity of each person, and ensuring under the law there is opportunity for each person to express their sex and not be penalised for that.”

Liberal senator George Brandis said it was a historic day that signified an end to law reforms more than 40 years in the making.

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, also openly gay and a long-time campaigner for same-sex rights, congratulated the Government for putting the legislation before Parliament within 12 months of its election.

Nice. Bi – actually, tri-partisan support for this historic decision! Makes me proud, not just of our elected officials and of the pollies I voted for but of the fact that I participated in the campaign led by indie non-partisan political campaign group GetUp.org, who have shown themselves in their relatively short political life thus far to be quite a major player in public participation. My voice was one of many, many thousands heard and heeded. But enough about me.

This historic event would never have happened under the Howard government (just given the arse, finally, after a dozen years of bullshit, borderline racism & almost six years of war). Former Prime Minister John Winston Menzies Howard, an old-school conservative, Bush supporter, Royalist and, well, lying bastard & refugee-hater (google: Children Overboard, mandatory detention, Nauru) naturally (as for most conservatives) held that homosexual people simply weren’t entitled to the same rights as everyone else (but, curiously, had exactly the same responsibilities – which they exercised by uniformly voting against him, bless their hearts). Howard may well have thought, like many conservatives, that being gay is some kind of choice or “kink”, and if people make the choice to play the game that way then they can jolly well watch the game from the bench and cut up the oranges for half-time. Or he may just have had a natural, ingrained, 1950’s white Australian slant against “bloody poofs”. Either way, there was no way gays were ever going to be equal while he was at The Lodge (aka the Aussie Whitehouse). This measure may well have had support from MPs from the Liberal Party (who, despite their name, are conservatives) during Howard’s reign, but they would always have felt compelled to vote along party lines. Not so this time – plus the emphatic Labour victory of last October & the gains for the Greens meant that the numbers for these votes were pretty much sorted.

Of course, this isn’t gay marriage per se, but removing the largest legal obstacles to equality is a giant step closer toward the inevitable. The fact that it has support from Liberal, Labour & Greens senators indicates that the prospect of gays being equal hasn’t seen them scurrying under their desks for a “duck & cover” drill. The three major parties have, finally, come together and exercised common sense, empathy and humanity. They’re not bollocking up & down, waving their Bibles around and shrieking about the sky falling or kids being taught Gayness at school, they’re shutting the f* up and working together for the good of all Australians, which is what they all swore an oath to do when they entered Parliament. And that makes me happy.

But then, we’ve always had flashes of political progression down this end. In 1893 our New Zealand cousins were the first to grant women the vote, with Australia beginning to follow suit two years later (in my home state of South Australia – go Crows!). Unfortunately it took until the 1960s for Aboriginals to be granted voting rights, but that’s another long & sad story.

Of course, I’m now waiting with bated breath for some button-down pontificator from some indignant branch of the God-squad to pop their talking head up on TV to have their obligatory 10-second crack at this long-overdue step in the right direction. My feeling is that it’ll be someone from either the Family First party (isn’t it curious how the word “Family” in the name of a political party or group is pretty much always code for “God hates gays”?) or some collared clown from the Catholic church. Specky anachronistic twat Cardinal Pell is my odds-on favourite. Being something to do with sex, this is right up the Papacy’s alley (so to speak). Papists are like Pavlov’s dogs, salivating at the mere mention of gays in the public sphere. I’ll give an outside chance to someone from a fringe whack-job group like the Assemblies of God.

Anyway, three cheers and three beers for Australia! My loving, loyal, law-abiding, dog-registering, voting, tax-paying neighbours (who just happen to be gay) can now look forward to being on equal footing with everyone else on the street.

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Category: Bigotry, Civil Rights, Friendships/relationships, Law, Noteworthy, Politics

About the Author ()

Hank was born of bird-watching bushwalking music-loving parents from whom he gained his love of nature, the universe & bicycles. Today he’s a musician, non-profit aid worker, beagle keeper and fair & balanced internet commentator – but that just means he has a chip on each shoulder.

Comments (8)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Hank: This is terrific news. Congratulations to all of you truly decent folks down under. I would be interested in hearing whether there are repercussions. After all, sometimes after making a big bold difficult-seeming move, many people start scratching their heads and thinking that it was actually a no-brainer and wondering why it SEEMED so difficult.

    Australia is clearly ahead of the U.S. on recognizing the importance of dignity for all and forbidding government-sponsored bigotry.

    Again, congratulations!

  2. Hank says:

    Thanks Erich! It's a very, very welcome step toward full equality.

    What I'm most pleased about, apart from the grassroots participation in getting this issue into the public eye, is that it ended up a non-partisan effort by all our major players. The fact that it was, in the end, up to our senate, also meant that it was immune to Prop 8-style public campaigns of lies and inflammatory, hyper-reactive rhetoric from well-funded special interests.

    I'll keep an eye out for repercussions, but this pretty much slipped under my radar – noone even knew this was going down last night! That tells me that it's nowhere near the big issue the crank patrol have made it in the states. For a historic vote it really didn't attract much attention until now. I'll make sure to watch the news and report on any of those talking heads I mentioned. I'll polish up my scope, ready for a pot-shot.

  3. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    There is a general perception among the American public that bigotry and all it's "-isms" is only in the US. Those of us that are citizens of the world know better. It is good to hear of progress in other places.

  4. Hank says:

    Absolutely. Sometimes I get so busy with my hobby (US politics :)) that stuff happening in my own backyard slips by unnoticed. Though to be fair, this didn't seem to get any major press or TV coverage down here & I just lucked into reading the story at the Canberra Times website. Seems strange that something that affects so many people would be allowed to happen relatively unreported.

    Still waiting for the blustering protestations from the 'phobes! C'mon, Cardinal Pell, don't leave me hangin'…

  5. Dan Klarmann says:

    But what about your Atheist buses? The Australian Atheists were unable to get the ad space: Buses are sprouting messages of reason everywhere…except Australia, but here in the "Land of the pilgrims' pride", we got Atheist buses: Faith on a Bus

  6. Hank says:

    Yeah, I read about that. And I went "meh"…

    While it is rather disappointing that the company didn't go for it, it doesn't really concern me that much. We don't have nearly the same problems with god-bothering whackjobs in this country that the US has. Freethinkers in Australia don't have anything approaching the uphill struggle for acceptance that faces our American brethren.

    To be honest, I wouldn't have bothered trying this campaign in the first place. Most people here tend to look sideways at anyone preaching (or seen to be preaching) anything, with a bit of a "yeah righto, what's all THAT about? Get your hand off it mate."

    Religion's nowhere near the hot-button political issue here that it is elsewhere. An Aussie atheist bus ad campaign almost seems redundant.

    Nonetheless, I was inspired to blurg:
    http://dangerousintersection.org/2008/11/26/on-th

  7. Tim Hogan says:

    Hank, when people are just reasonable, it's not news. Seems like Aussie reasonableness should be catching!

  8. Hank says:

    Tim, I certainly flamin' hope so 🙂

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