Thursday, August 26, 2004

Gays and Lesbians to Withhold $1.4 Billion From US Economy During October 8 Economic Boycott

Now that's an idea! Drop out of the economy for a day and watch what happens.

The U.S. lesbian and gay population spends an average of $1.4 billion each day, totaling $500 billion a year, and Boycott For Equality is organizing a one-day nationwide economic "walkout" on October 8, 2004 to make that point clear.

The one-day event is designed to highlight the contribution that lesbians and gays make to the domestic economy and tax base, at the same time they are denied the full legal protections and civil liberties afforded heterosexual Americans.

"We want to remind those in our nation who don't always see the impact of our community in terms of dollars and cents that we do have real market power," said Boycott for Equality Co-Founder Dale Duncan. "We were inspired by Don't Amend Founder Robin Tyler's famous quip, `If being gay is a disease, let's all call in sick to work' and decided to put those words into action."

Up to twenty-seven million Americans identify as being primarily lesbian or gay, yet no Federal law provides protection from discrimination in the workplace and many State and Federal laws prohibit access to the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

According to the Washington D.C.-based public relations firm Witeck-Combs Communications, the US Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) population contributed an estimated $500 billion to the U.S. marketplace in 2003, while The University of Georgia's Selig Center at the Terry College of Business estimates that the African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native- American markets contribute $688 billion, $653 billion, $344 billion, and $45 billion respectively.

"This event brings into focus the economic contribution of GLBT citizens," said Duncan. "And people understand money. The response so far has been tremendous."

Some major groups that have endorsed or encouraged Boycott for Equality Day include the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Don't Amend: The Equality Campaign, The Advocate magazine, Civil Marriage US, DC Diversity, Equality Illinois and Wyoming Equality. Additionally, comic Margaret Cho's web site,, has listed Boycott For Equality Day as one of the "12 Things You Can Do" to promote gay and lesbian equality.

October 8 falls on a Friday, and the following Monday is National Coming Out Day, Duncan explained. "It seemed like a great time to make our presence felt." Boycott For Equality is an Atlanta-based non-profit formed to promote the boycott, scheduled this year for October 8. For that day, GLBT Americans and their straight allies are encouraged to withdraw from the economy in three specific areas:
1) Do not purchase anything. Do not generate sales tax or business revenue.
2) Don't work. Take the day off - do not generate payroll taxes, income taxes or add to the economy.
3) Do not use cell phones. Dropping out of the communication network is a way to measure the impact of your presence.

For more information, visit Contact: Dale Duncan (757) 257-6215

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


Am I the only person who is sick of the cry of HOMOPHOBIA - surely this is one of the most mis-used over-used labels around.

Apart from being etymologically rotten – strictly speaking it means “fear of same” – I hate the way it gets thrown around like a pot of tar.

It's supposed to mean an irrational fear of homosexuals/homosexuality, and as such was better known as “gay panic”. It has long been the defence of choice for gay bashers: “I was so horrified when he propositioned me that I panicked and bashed his head in, your worship.”

But when Jacinta Collins says the sight of bum-wagging woofters and boob-bobbling dykes at Mardi Gras doesn’t incline her to entrust us with marriage and children, that’s not fear of faggotry – that’s genuine distaste for the whole casual sex ethic that informs the event.

Where she errs is in assuming that such events are the epitome of gay culture. That we’re all aching to do it in the streets with whoever catches our eye. And asking the perfectly valid question, “Are these people ready for marriage and children? Are they responsible enough?”

This is the image press and television has fastened on and the one we gleefully collaborate with, serving it up year by year for their delectation. If it’s the only one most people see, and they find it distasteful, that’s not homophobia.

It’s as if all heterosexuals were judged on the basis of the shenanigans at Schoolies: if that’s all I knew about them, I’d be ripping kids out of prams at Chadstone and rushing them home to a nice responsible homo-home. Of course that would be unfair and a terrible distortion. But could you call it “heterophobia”? I think not – just honest concern based on lack of information.

But . . .we put that image out there. We are responsible for creating it. It’s no good crying, “It’s the media!” – as anyone involved with television knows, the instant image wins out over the considered thought every time.

So how about creating a new image this year? The media is fed up with the bums’n’boobs show anyway. Let’s make the Mardi Gras - and all the Pride celebrations this year - all black affairs. No sequins, no leather, no bare flesh, just black frocks and suits. No music, no dancing, just a slow muffled drumbeat. A funeral for our pride, mortally wounded by the Marriage Amendment Act.

What’s the betting that would make the front pages and the main news bulletins?

We can always stage the resurrection in private!!!!!

Friday, August 20, 2004

3 Steps To Heaven

The Age August 19th

I think we can now catch a glimpse of the Liberal Party's three steps to
re-election heaven.
1. Liberal party finally 'revolts' over Howard's lies on asylum seekers and
repudiates the old fibbers legacy.
2. The heir apparent steps forward to take the helm and calls an immediate
3. Newly freed from the Howard stain, the Coalition romps home again.
Is that why Peter Costello's looking so happy these days?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

How Very Australian

In the wake of the government’s decision to ban gay marriage, two things stand out. One is the attitude of parliamentarians – that we don’t really care, because we’re not demonstrating, we’re not writing letters, we’re not speaking, we’re not constantly lobbying them. They therefore feel safe in discounting the views put to them by those of us who make our opposition known: we are seen as “unrepresentative” of the community.

The other is the attitude of many of our own community. They don’t want to get married, they don’t see what the fuss is about, and they call themselves “non-political”. As the owner of DTs said when he tried to shout down Rodney Croome at the Pride Bakeoff – this is not a political meeting, Pride is not a political event, we are here to enjoy ourselves, buy cakes and raise money for Pride.

He’s wrong. There is no such thing as being “non-political’. If you live under a government that treats you as a second class citizen, and you refuse to speak, write, vote or act to change that, that is a political position. You are taking the position that you accept things the way they are and you will do nothing to change them. By doing nothing, you are voting for the status quo. By saying nothing to our politicians, you give them permission to ignore us and discriminate against us.

DTs cannot be non-political – it’s very existence as a gay community venue in a predominantly heterosexual society is a political statement. Pride, likewise, is a political event, that says gays and lesbians exist, we are just the same as everyone else, and we are proud of who we are. It refutes the statements that come from moralists and pseudo-Christians, who label us as immoral or even evil. It says we’re a normal part of the human family. That is a political statement.

Raising funds for such an event is therefore a political event, and the venue where that takes place is automatically a political supporter making a political statement.

The statement that “I am not political” should actually read, “I am politically passive. I am a political bottom. I prefer to let other people make decisions affecting my rights and my life, and then whinge if I don’t like them.”

It is the statement of a child, leaving everything up to Mum and Dad; it is the statement of the colonist, happy to leave decisions to the Crown; it is the statement of the convict, leaving everything up to the prison governor.

How very Australian!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Be Afraid – But Don’t Be A Coward

It seems people are afraid in the wake of the marriage ban.

I’m hearing gay men saying things like, “I’m so over this marriage business!” , or “It’s only the dykes that want marriage.” I’m hearing of gay venue owners ordering prominent and hardworking activists to whom the community owes an incalculable debt to “Get off my stage!” and shut up with the politics, we’re here to enjoy ourselves.

That is the sound of fear.

And as a tactic it’s about as useful (and possible) as Kim Beazley trying to be a "small target".

Yes, there is the danger of a backlash.

Yes, the government’s shameful behaviour invites bigots and hate-merchants to attack us.

So yes, there is reason to be afraid. But no reason for cowardice in the face of that fear. Cowering in a corner and squealing at Mr Howard, “Please don’t hurt us any more,” is only going to fuel the bullies’ pleasure in sinking the boot in. We have to give him a bloody nose. This is a time for coming out, not retreating back in.

That man who’s “over the marriage business” is in deep denial: he’s really saying he’s scared his lover might leave him, and to talk of marriage – even for other people, or in the abstract – risks driving him away.

Let me tell you, people, cringing away in a corner is not going to silence your fears, or keep a lover hanging round. Your lovers will stay with you if they really care, and leave you just exactly when they want if they don’t.

The man who told The Age newspaper “it’s only something lesbians want” really means, “Hit them, they did it! Not me!”

But telling the bully boys to go beat up the lesbians only means they’ll be one less ally when they come for you – and maybe one more enemy.

I know the Melbourne ghetto venue owner means, “Oh God, if there’s trouble people will be too scared to come and spend money in my business, and then what do I do for my retirement? Don’t attract attention or the place might be attacked.”

But banning politics from the pub won’t affect what’s happening on the street outside: the drunken hoons will still hang around hoping for a window to smash, or worse, a poufta to bash. They already know where we are.

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Border Mail report os the gay marriage test case

The Border Mail

Hmm. So on the one hand we have no chance, on the other hand, Parliament clearly usurped what is usually a court function. This one should be fun.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Letter to the Governor General

To His Excellency the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC

Your Excellency

Yesterday, in a historic first, the government of Australia pre-empted one of it's own enquiries, stifled debate, and passed amendments to the Marriage Act to enshrine second-class status and treatment for my community in Australian law. It refused to wait for the facts on the issue to be uncovered before legislating its prejudice.

The government falsely claimed that this was some kind of emergency issue, and such is their hatred and intolerance, they were at one stage prepared to lose their anti-terrorism legislation rather than the Marriage Act, thus branding gays and lesbians as more dangerous to Australia than al-Qaeda!

This is contrary to the government's duty to govern equally for all citizens, regardless of colour, creed, age, wealth, gender or sexual orientation, and an abuse of majority power.

As Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's representative, you are the last bulwark against this dictatorial and unjust action. You have an opportunity and indeed the duty to stand against this. Please decline to provide the Royal Assent this evil bill, please do not sign it, but return it to Parliament with instructions to the government to await the outcome of the proper studies on the issue.

Thank you for your attention.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Friday, August 13, 2004

Australia 'soft on terror, hard on gays' - National -

Australia 'soft on terror, hard on gays' - National -

Gays More Dangerous Than Al Qaeda

This has to be the craziest yet: the Australian government thinks we’re more dangerous than al-Qaeda or Jamaa Islamia.

John Howard is so terrified of gays and lesbians he’s dropped anti-terrorist measures to try to pass his ban on gay marriage.

Howard is frantic to get the election under way while the Olympics is on: that way, he thinks, the real campaign will be that much shorter, because for the first two weeks everyone will be watching Thorpe and Klim and company and will ignore the election.

That means he evades the full scrutiny that would expose his shortcomings. The longer the campaign the more chance the Opposition will nail him.

But he’s running out of time. There are a whole load of bills he wants to get passed, just in case he loses. Must have something for his legacy. What to withdraw, what to press on with? What’s more important?

Already he’s amended the Free Trade Agreement with the USA to incorporate changes he thinks might invalidate the whole deal, giving the Opposition everything it wants. Now he’s so panicked he’s dropped proposed anti-terrorist legislation to make time to go queer-bashing.

He thinks we’re more of a threat than al-Qaeda!

He’s willing – according to what he’s said in the past about his anti-terror measures – to leave Australia dangerously exposed, solely in order to ban gay marriage?

And he thinks he’s fit to govern for another term?

Memo to Jeanette – give Nancy Reagan a call – she’ll clue you in on what to expect next.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Wanted - Gay Olympians

The redoubtable Polly Bush does it again on the SMH Webdiary : well worth a look.

Meanwhile I was thinking: with all the pollies running for cover - except Senator Brian Grieg, who has nicely wedged Labor on the same-sex marriage issue - perhaps we should put out an appeal for one of our (gay) Olympians to run a victory lap with our Rainbow Flag.

Who do we know who works for a courier . . . . . and who do we send it to?

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Please don't vote for the Marriage Act amendment

Dear Members & Senators,

I am writing to you to ask you not to support the government'’s attempt to amend the Marriage Act.

It does nothing to 'protect'’ marriage, which is not in danger from gays and lesbians, but from the heterosexual majority.

It turns an issue of conscience into a political football and, contrary to the PM'’s assertion, guarantees it will be an election issue.

It creates a serious threat to the tourist industry.

It aligns you with a very dangerous group who seek to return women to their traditional gender roles and make divorce much more difficult

Justice is supposed to be blind: she cannot see the age, race, gender, sexuality, wealth or religious or political affiliation of those who seek her aid. In a just and fair country, there must be no law that treats anyone who harms no-one else any differently from any other person. Yet this bill will permanently enshrine an inferior status for all those of non-mainstream sexuality.

The proper function of the courts is to review and interpret laws put forward by the executive and passed by the elected representatives, in the light of their impact on society in general. The courts are an avenue of redress and relief for minorities, protecting them from the tyranny of the majority, which may sometimes desire outcomes which trample on the rights of others. The courts exist to prevent this from happening: this legislation would prevent them from exercising their proper function.

Marriage is indeed endangered, not because gays and lesbians want to participate in it, but because heterosexuals do not. This is because marriage has not been allowed to follow it'’s natural evolution, and has become ossified. The answer is not to bar marriage from any group, but to reform it so that heterosexuals DO want to participate in it, and to extend it to all who others require it.

At the same time an intermediate form of legally sanctioned relationship is needed to protect the personal rights of couples and their offspring, and the answer that has been found to work overseas has been civil unions, again open to all. The proposed amendment seeks to further ossify marriage and therefore condemn it to eventual irrelevance.

The Prime Minister has stated that he does not want this issue to become a political football in the election, yet his actions have ensured it will be exactly that. The best option to avoid that issue, with it's attendant dangers of increasing attacks on gays and lesbians and increasing suicides among despairing youngsters, would be to wait for the outcome of the Senate enquiry and have a proper debate on the issue, followed by a conscience vote. This would take the heat out of the issue, cooling the present dangerous situation.

Gay and lesbian tourism, including now the honeymoon trade, is a major dollar earner for Australia. Everyone knows, for example, how much money the Mardi Gras pumps into Sydney each year. This has not gone unnoticed by our Asian neighbours.

Despite still having anti-gay laws on the books, the Singapore government is now taking a softer line, and this very weekend, the annual Nation Party, run with full government support, is expected to pump $10m dollars into the local economy.

This week an association of Bangkok businesses pleaded with their government to drop the anti-gay rhetoric, because that, combined with the new gay-friendly image of Singapore, has seen gay tourism income in Thailand drop by 20-30% this year.

Hong Kong
The Hong Kong government, desperate for tourism dollars, is cautiously considering gay law reform, and has sanctioned an annual gay festival there with the publicly stated aim of overtaking Sydney Mardi Gras as the premier gay tourist event in the region.

Not to be outdone, government ministers in Taiwan have begun turning up at gay events and parades, and are introducing legislation to redefine the family to include gay and lesbian families.

The gay community here has strong links with the USA and Europe. At present we are seen as a friendly destination, but if this law passes, gay and lesbian tourists will pass us by and go where they are truly welcome, and their marriages and civil unions are recognized and respected, and where they feel safe. The endorsement of anti-gay hate groups by both major parties will lead to increased violence against those of us who live here and those who visit.

The government has a duty to govern for all Australians, and a the majority of Australians are either of a tolerant brand of Christianity, not Christian at all, or of no religion. But if you research the background of the people and organisations who make up the Marriage Forum to which your Prime Minister and the Shadow Attorney General paid such extravagant court recently, you will find a very dangerous brew of extreme right-wing politics, fundamentalist Christianity (they have strong links with self-styled 'pro-family'” groups in the USA, from whom they take their doctrine and tactics), strict pre-Vatican Council Catholicism (against contraception, abortion and divorce), ignorance and bigotry.

If these people score a win in enshrining anti-gay and homophobic attitudes in law, their next target will be professional women, who according to their doctrines, ought to be subservient to men, not compete with him in the workplace, and remain home to raise children. In short, women of Parliament, they'’re coming for you next. And if that doesn'’t appeal -– tough: they also want to make it next-to-impossible to divorce.

Obviously I believe that no-one can in proper conscience vote for this measure. Some of you may disagree with me. But in all fairness there are two things even those who disagree with me can do:

  • Wait for the outcome of the Senate Enquiry
  • Force a conscience vote

Thank you for your time and patience.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

The Silence of the Latham

Dear Mr Latham

I notice with some interest that you yourself have not said anything, either in public or in private, on the issue of gay rights and in particular the marriage issue. I do not know whether this comes from personal disinterest, or simply an attempt to concentrate public attention of the issue of the PBS and the FTA.

It seems to me that this position leaves you some room to manoeuvre on the issue: you can always censure Ms Roxon for exceeding her brief, especially her action in cosying up to the extreme right wing Christian fundamentalist Taliban minority who make up the self-style National Marriage Forum, whose entire agenda is diametrically opposed to everything an egalitarian Labor Party is supposed to stand for.

I assume you are aware of their links with Bob Santamaria'’s old gang, who want to put women back in the home and the kitchen, end the influence of feminism, make divorce next-to-impossible . . . . . well, you get the general idea. You can hardly be happy at Ms. Roxon's tying the Labor party to this toxic bunch of thinly-disguised white supremacists and fascists. Or can you?

Within the aforementioned room to manouvre you could always play the same kind of counter-wedging card that you have over the FTA -– that is, put forward a marriage act amendment of your own rather than accept Mr Howards. This could enshrine the cherished Labor value of equality for all, perhaps by establishing civil unions open to all, as an alternative to both de facto relationships and marriage, along the lines of the French Pactes Civiles.

This would be an acceptable temporary compromise for the GLBT community, as well as getting you off the current hook, where you are being forced into a position of enshrining inequality and discrimination. You could - and should -– make a powerful civil and human rights case for such a move, whilst avoiding the dreaded m-word, which seems to be like a red rag to a bull.

Believe me, so long as the unions are marriage in all but name, most of us don'’t care what you call it. And as I said, I feel sure the GLBT community would accept something a bit less as a temporary measure. What will not be forgiven is enshrining anti-gay inequality and discrimination in law. Already most voting gays of whom I am aware - and that'’s quite a few - – talk of voting Green or Democrat first, and preferencing Labor last, even behind the Coalition, if you persist in this course.

One of Ms Roxons minions - she did not have the courtesy to write to me herself -– has issued a bland statement containing a neat piece of moral blackmail which says, in effect, vote for us or you'’ll get the Coalition next time, and therefore nothing. She misses the point that this pernicious bill will by then be law, and therefore we will have already lost. We therefore have nothing to lose now.

You have a well-deserved reputation for standing up for the minorities and the underdogs, and also for finding escape hatches from seemingly impossible corners Mr Howard tries to back you in to. I would ask you please to display the same qualities in this instance and prevent this evil piece of law from being enacted.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Roxon's justification for betrayal

-----Original Message-----

From: Hall, Katie (N. Roxon, MP) []
Sent: Friday, August 06, 2004 5:20 PM
Subject: Thank you for your inquiry

Thank you for your inquiry with regard to same-sex marriage and recent debates in the Parliament.

As you are aware, the Howard Government continues to try to make gay marriage a central issue in its re-election strategy. Debate has gone back and forth and there are now two Bills before the Parliament that deal with gay marriage.

On the 4th August the Prime Minister announced that he intends to bring back into the Senate the Government's second Marriage Bill (the one that deals only with the definition of marriage and a prohibition on foreign same-sex marriages, but not adoption) sometime in this current sitting fortnight.

Labor has said from the beginning of this debate that we wonÂ’t support gay marriage so, although we did not see the need for the Government to bring this matter before the Parliament, if and when it does, we will be voting in line with our stated position. This will effectively confirm the current common law definition of marriage in Australia as being between a man and a woman.

You might be aware that the original Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill (which includes references to inter-country same-sex adoption) was referred to a Senate Committee. We understand that there were many thousands of submissions received by the closing date of 30 July. Thank you if you took the time to make a submission.

From those submissions forwarded to our office it appears they were overwhelmingly in favour of the legislation. The submissions will still be scrutinised by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee over the next few months, with a reporting date of 7 October.

Labor expects that recommendations from the Senate Committee will report on a range of issues affecting the gay and lesbian community and will be useful as part of our reform plans if we are in Government after the next election.

Labor understands that some people in the gay and lesbian community would like to see marriage laws changed to allow them to marry. However, there is still a lot of opposition in the broader community and many others simply do not want to see gay marriage prioritised over other legislative reforms.

Labor has a strong commitment to the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation based on sexuality and laws to protect from harassment and vilification. We have developed a policy and made a commitment to remove discriminatory provisions from Commonwealth legislation (except the Marriage Act) on the basis of sexuality and thereby deliver the equivalent recognition for same sex couples as for heterosexual de factos. This will occur through a full audit of all Commonwealth legislation to identify where such provisions exist, and a subsequent process of amending all relevant legislation. This may involve hundreds of amendments in areas such as superannuation, taxation and social security payments and so on.

By focussing only on the Howard Government's agenda of gay marriage, it appears that the only debate in the community is on this issue, and Labor's commitment to many other same-sex reforms is overlooked.

I am sure you are aware that the extensive reforms committed to by the Labor Party can only be implemented if a Labor Government is elected, and it is all too clear there will be no same-sex reforms at all if the Howard Government is returned to office.

I hope this clarifies Labor'’s position for you.

Yours sincerely

Nicola Roxon MP
Labor's Shadow Attorney-General
And on behalf of Federal Labor Leader Mark Latham MP


This is the hairdressers answer - you're just splitting hairs.

In the first place there is nothing to be lost by allowing the courts to decide the matter, as it is their function to protect minorities like us from the tyranny of the majority you represent, and they should be free to exercise it. It is tyranny to remove from legal purview any law, especially those pertaining to civil and human rights.

In the second place you could easily move in the same way as you have over the free trade agreement, e.g., bring forward your own amendment which could, for example, create civil unions identical to marriage but missing only the name - if you had the will and leadership capacity.

As far as the submissions to the enquiry are concerned, sheer quantity is no substitute for quality. Many of the arguments contained in those documents may well be irrelevant, specious, erroneous or otherwise invalid, as indeed are most of yours below. Only the committee can decide the relative weight of the evidence, and they should be left to do so.

The fact that there are two marriage amendment bills, one with and one without adoption, is merely a political ploy on the part of the Prime Minister and you are complicit in it. The two marriage bills are identical.

Labor has said repeatedly that it is favor of gay and lesbian equality: equality means EXACTLY equal treatment in all laws, regulations etc. in every walk of life. Justice is blindfolded, she cannot see the age, wealth, gender or sexuality of these pleading for her intervention. There can be no law applying to gays and lesbians that does not apply equally to heterosexuals, and vice versa. That is equality and it is to that you made your commitment.

This amendment will enshrine gay and lesbian INEQUALITY - you are therefore morally obliged to vote it down, or resign your position and make way for someone capable of courage, leadership and integrity.

What I should also have said is this: the quickest, easiest, fairest and most honest way to enshrine equal righs for lesbians and gays at a stroke is to legalise gay marriage - why else do the Christian Taliban oppose it?

It's H.A.R.D. work fighting for acceptance

Good advice on how to win gay rights from Hong Kong barrister Vandana Rajwani of H.A.R.D. – Hong Kong Against Racial Discrimination (South China Morning Post) – adapted for Australian conditions.

NO INFIGHTING. Form a coalition of sympathetic groups across the country, agree on the common objective, and delegate areas of responsibility according to experience.

GET CASE STUDIES to cover the spectrum of discussion. Have people talk about their own experiences. Do it at a BIG gathering in the national capital and invite press and television. Personal stories have far greater impact than impersonal principles. People will come forward if they know they are not alone.

SUPPORT PEOPLE WHO COME OUT. Make sure there is an emotional and financial support network for those who come forward, but strenuously protect the anonymity of those too afraid to speak out.

MONEY TALKS. Find out what your objective means for the Australian economy. Work out the costs and benefits to the wider community.

TARGET BUSINESS. Equal opportunity often equals improved productivity.

VISIT SCHOOLS. Talk directly to students, at their level, about the issues involved.

REGULARLY TALK DIRECTLY TO GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS. They may not understand what it is like to be discriminated against, and may think they’re doing nothing wrong.

IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING GAY. Being gay is not the issue. Morality is not the issue. It’s about human rights. (To paraphrase Bill Clinton, “It’s the equality, stupid.” – Doug) Homosexuality is a hard sell, but if you tear it down to basic rights the average person will find it easier to understand, and your opponents will find it harder to attack you.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Should We Blame Labor: Or Did We Do It to Ourselves?

Have we only have ourselves to blame for the loss over Howard’s gay marriage amendment – a look at US gay organisations has some valuable lessons for the future? Why are US GLBT organisations so large and successful, while ours struggle for impact?

Political Clout

The US Democratic Party has now wrapped up it’s conference, and although the word gay wasn’t actually mentioned by candidate John Kerry, he made some inclusive sounding noises. His wife, Teresa Heinz-Kerry, of the baked-bean and sauce fortune, was less restrained, telling members of the Democrat LBGT caucus, “You will have a Mom in the White House,” adding, “You can call me Momma T.”

And despite all the nervousness around gay issues, Cheryl Jacques, head of the Human Rights Commission, got to address the full convention, speaking out strongly on marriage equality, health care, rising HIV rates, hate crimes and job discrimination, although without calling for any specific legislation.

Compare that with Nicola Roxon jumping into bed with John Howard at Bill “Toxic” Muhlenberg’s Australian Fundamentalist Family Forum in Canberra this week – after warning Tasmanian gay rights activist to stay away!

How on earth did American gay organisations get so powerful (and how far have we still to go here in Australia to match them): just take a look at this, from a press release received last month.

HRC – World’s Largest GLBT organisation

WASHINGTON, July 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, with 600,000 members, a 110-person staff, three governing boards, a national headquarters building in downtown Washington, D.C., and a US$30 million annual budget.

Pretty impressive numbers. But then the US population is kind of huge: latest best estimate is 293 million, which makes our little gang of around 19m look pretty puny – just enough for one big city and it’s suburbs. We’re about 6.5% of the size of the US – is it any wonder the free-trade agreement looks a tad lop-sided?

Big numbers mean big bucks

HRC’s 600,000 members may seem huge, but as a percentage of the giant US population, that’s only 0.2%.

If 0.2% of Australians joined a national GLBT organisation, it would have around 38,000 members. You need only charge a membership of $25 a year and there’s almost a million dollars to work with, before you even start tapping business for the corporate dollars.

And don’t forget – HRC is only the biggest national GLBT organisation in the States: there are ten more with annual revenues of between US$1m – 8m, and another ten or so worth between a quarter and three quarters of a million dollars apiece.


(last year for which figures are available)


Human Rights Commission


Lambda Legal Defence Fund


Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation


Gay-Lesbian-Straight Education Network

(gay-straight alliances in schools)


National Gay & Lesbian Task Force


Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organisation


Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays


Servicemembers Legal Defence Network




Take into account all the smaller national organisations such as the Log Cabin Republicans and Stonewall Democrats and the total revenue of national GLBT organisations easily hits US$50m a year – around $70m Australian at current rates.

And don’t forget, these are just the national organisations: below them are all the state and city organisations, many of whom are also quite well-resourced.

The gravy train

It’s pretty good for the activists at the top of these organisations, too: Cheryl Jacques salary is undisclosed, but her predecessor Elizabeth Birch had a combined salary and benefit package of over US$200k – that’s around A$285k per year Australian.

All the leaders of the top five are each on a salary in the US$150-200k range – on average somewhat below their peers in other non-profit organisations or similar size, with the exception of GLAAD and Lambda Legal, who paid significantly more.

Money talks

Of course, the bulk of the money doesn’t go on salaries, it goes on campaigns, which is why Cheryl Jacques was up on the podium in Boston. HRC has committed US$10 million towards this year’s presidential election, for example, and has already spent several million lobbying against President Bush’s attempt to amend the US Constitution to ban gay marriage. The Democrats owed her that spot!

The other thing these organisations offer politicians is votes. George Bush’s friendly overtures to the Republican gay group were reckoned to be worth a at least a million votes last time: chickenfeed in a normal election but the kind of numbers that can make a difference when the race is tight. In a normal year it’s reckoned the gay vote is reckoned to be worth about the same as the Jewish vote – around 4-5% of all those Americans who can be bothered to vote.

We've got to Get Together

Do we have anything to learn from the US model? I’d say yes. If we’d had anything like the strength of the US organisations, there would have been 100,000 pro-gay submissions to the Senate enquiry on gay marriage, not a pathetic one hundred.

First and foremost, we need to get serious about building and protecting our community. We now have children to consider, and a future that stretches further than the next dance party, into future generations.

At the same time, we don’t have the advantages of numbers that makes the US organisations so rich and effective. We need to employ amplification strategies to make our voice as loud as possible, to get the maximum effect. What do they do that we don’t?

1) Shout in one voice and close to the government’s ears – not in lots of little ones scattered around the country. We need a national GLBT organisation with a permanent head office and staff in Canberra. HRC is effective because it’s right on Congress’s doorstep in Washington, and it’s people are in and out of the Capitol all the time. We need to do the same.

2) Court big business. And because business is mainly headquartered in Sydney, we need a big voice there, too, shouting in the corporate ear. Major corporates – particularly the banks and the airlines – employ lots of us and we all use their goods and services. They owe something back if they want to keep our business. We need regular reliable sponsorship income from them – and we’ll only get that by squatting on their doorstep – in Sydney.

3) Bounce the echo off the mountains. Because we’re such a small country with a tiny population, we need the economic and political clout of other GLBT people around the world to help us lever the government and the corporates into action. That means close ties, maybe even affiliation, with US and European gay organisations to amplify our voice. Boycotting a US manufacturer whose products are sold in Oz because they pull ads during the L-word is nothing: organizing a worldwide GLBT boycott against them would have them throwing money at us.

4) One reed breaks easily: a bundle of reeds is strong as a tree. Pool talent, resources and ideas. Local and state organisations need to be part of and tithe a proportion of their income to the national organisation(s). And the national organisation(s) needs to manage national campaigns and raise national money for local facilities, such as a community centre in each major city.

The tyranny of distance that gave rise to the fragmented population and conflicting loyalties of Australians – who so often tend to be Melburnians or Sydneysiders first and Australians only a distant second – is gone, banished by modern transport and communications, especially the Internet.

It’s time to change and consolidate our institutions to reflect the new reality, and bake ourselves a nice big Australian Pie. Otherwise we’ll continue to be sidelined whenever it suits the larger political agenda.

Got An Election Yet?

So John Howard wants to take the issue of gay marriage out of politics by banning it in the next two weeks – so it’s out of the way before the election. I wonder what that tells us about his preferred election date?

The Prime Minister made his announcement to a ragbag assortment of Christian Taliban who go under various labels, including the micro-group Australian Family Association, which gets attention out of all proportion to it’s size or relevance, and other groups such as the National Civic Council, with links to fundamentalist groups here in the USA who make a living vilifying homosexuals and women (especially feminists), want to restore traditional gender roles, make divorce much harder, and favour tough educational regimes that include physical punishment – presumably to be administered by cane wielding monks. They are in fact the last mouldering remnants of Bob Santamaria and his gang.

Once again the mantra is “protecting” marriage. Just how does preventing gays and lesbians from marrying “protect” it? Is the Prime Minister afraid Aussie blokes are suddenly going to start telling their girlfriends, “Nah, we’re not getting married: that’s for poofters!” That their girlfriends are going to respond to a proposal from their man with, “What do you think I am,
some kind of lezzo?”

But we do know from experience what DOES damage marriage, and causes it to fall from favour, and that is to sanction alternative types of coupledom for gays and lesbians.

In France, where Civil Pacts are already open to both kind of couples, young people increasingly choose the pact over marriage because of it’s less restrictive nature. In other European countries where gays and lesbians have civil unions rather than marriage, two simultaneous trends are occurring: on the one hand, civil unions are either expanding in scope to become more marriage-like, or they are in the process of being scrapped in favour of gay marriage; and heterosexual couples are asking for civil unions to be extended to them.

In short, where it’s marriage or nothing, people get married, or stay as de facto couples. Where there are alternatives, EVERYONE wants them and marriage suffers.

If John Howard and Mark Latham want to protect marriage, therefore, the logical thing is not to behave like twin Canutes as the tide of marriage evolution sweeps over them, but to extend marriage to include same sex couples, not lock them out of it.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Third time lucky for Howard on gay wedge?

Third time lucky for Howard on gay wedge? - Web Diary -

The gorgeous Polly Bush nails wee Johnny again: with a little help from her friends!

And in other news . . . . . . . .Warm up the turkey-baster, darl

In a decision that makes them seem to deserve the adjective Victorian, the State Government of Victoria restricts access to in-vitro fertilization – artificial insemination to you and me – to the “medically infertile”. It classifies lesbians and single mothers as “socially infertile” and therefore ineligible for medical assistance if they want to have a baby.

That means not only have some good old Victorian turkey-basters have been getting a fair workout, but, on a more serious notes, single women and lesbians trying to conceive artificially have had to travel repeatedly to clinics in the neighbouring state of New South Wales to do it. Given the costs involved, few can afford it – I guess you’d say they are the “financially infertile”.

But clever doctors and administrators at the Infertility Treatment Authority in Melbourne have found a loophole: lesbians and single mums are given sperm samples and told inseminate themselves at home. If they aren’t pregnant after four tries then – wham! – they’re medically infertile and eligible for medical help.

Both major parties agree on gay marriage ban

Gay-bashers - including the Prime Minister - gather in Canberra today

A veritable coven of gay-bashing Christian fundamentalists is gathering in Canberra today to try to bully the government into one more push to ban gay marriage. They’re furious that the opposition parties conspired to kick the issue into a Senate enquiry.

There’s the Australian Family Association and it’s mouthpiece Bill Muhlenberg – who recently campaigned against The L-Word, describing it at “toxic tv”, claims HIV can be spread in drinking water, says that 90% of gay men find human faeces pleasurable and – the lulu – insists there is no objective proof homosexuals are discriminated against.

The AFA is a front organisation for the shadowy right-wing National Civic Council, with links to the Catholic Church. The Council emphasizes traditional gender roles, what it calls ‘rigorous education’ (presumably at the hands of cane-wielding priests), and wants to make divorce much more difficult.

Also fronting up is the Endeavour Forum, of which the Pope will approve, since it’s brief is to Stop Feminism, and speakers from the Popes own legions.

Both Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Mark Latham have been invited to address the gathering, although both are expected to pass. I'll try and get more news on this later.


John Howard accepted their invitation - and told them he would re-introduce the government's amendments to the Marriage Act, to define marriage as being between one man and one woman, within two weeks.

This would pre-empt the Senate enquiry into the issue, which isn't due to report until October 7th. Mr Howard said he wanted the issue out of the way before the election, so that it wouldn't be an issue.

First indications are that he will get his way, with Labor spokesperson Nicola Roxon indicating that the opposition would go along with his plans.

Gay activists have condemned Labor's move as a sell-out and a breach of their promises to wait for the Senate's report.

Monday, August 02, 2004

A Week in Oz

Thorpedoed again

The is-he-or-isn’t-he-who-cares saga of Olympic swimmer and all round metrosexual – allegedly – danced in and out of the headlines, waving it’s glowsticks, after his photo turned up in one tiny corner of a collage at the National Gallery in Federation Square, with a scribbled GAY pointed at his head. Blink and you’d miss it, but the tabloids were out in a flash, claiming he was planning to sue. Not so, according to Joy Melbourne’s Andy Murdoch, who spoke to his agent. Thorpe was mildly amused. Next thing you know, he’s sauntering through airport security on his way to Athens, camping it up for the cameras in dark glasses and prominent thorpedo. Yaawn!

Schools Out

State-run Melbourne High School, that fancies itself as one of the country’s elite all-male educational establishments, has been caught with it’s pants down. Or rather, a bunch of male models have, after a photo-shoot the school thought would all be about fashion turned out to more about fetish. Athletic young male models pulling down each other’s shorts on the games field, young men in school uniform bent over desks ready for teacher’s spanking, twelve pages of playground fun in Australia’s premier elite gay magazine, DNA. The school promised to be “more vigilant in future” – maybe the teachers will stay and watch?

No charity for trannies

Mission Australia, a so-called Christian charity which runs women’s centres in Sydney, has obtain an exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act to allow them to ban transsexuals. The charity said there had been a number on “incidents” at their premises involving pre-op transsexuals, resulting in concerns for the safety of workers and clients. Norrie May Welby of Sex and Gender Education said that since the exemption allowed the charity to be a women-only service, transsexuals should still be welcome, as they too were a kind of women – the most vulnerable kind. She said if the behaviour of some people was a problem, you regulate the behaviour, you don’t ban all the people who look the same, or have the same sexuality, or skin colour.

More Charity from "Christian" Families

The Festival of Light, which promotes reparative therapy (gay-to-straight conversion through prayer and counseling), and the Australian Family Association, a tiny but vociferous and well-connected right wing evangelical outfit with a rabidly anti-gay agenda, managed to hijack both the University of Queensland and the Australian Governor General, as well as about 600 Australian families. They didn’t publicise the fact that they were the organizers behind a Family Expo at the University in Brisbane, to be addressed by US “pro-family” speakers, ostensibly on parenting and marriage skills.

But their cover was blown as the Governor General began his welcome address, when two gay men stood up and kissed, unfurling a banner reading “Invent Your Own Family.” Some families left when the true agenda of the conference was revealed, horrified that the government would be supporting such an event. Protester John Cheverton of Action Reform Change Queensland said the governor general was supposed to be “the Queen’s representative in Australia, but he didn’t do a very good job of representing queens today.”