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.

1 comment:

adrian said...

Hello -

I am both saddened and comforted by your fight for marriage equality in Australia. Sad because you are forced to undergo the same ridiculous fight that GLBT's here in the US are having to fight for. Not a fight for "special" rights as some on the other side have called it, but "equal" rights. However, my comfort comes from knowing that we are sharing in this struggle for equality world-wide. It's not just a problem in the US, it's a problem around the globe.

So, good luck to you, my Australian GLBT brothers and sisters -- we WILL win, because ours is a fight for justice and equality! :-)

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