Don’t Wait Till After The Wedding

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by Marc Love

Marriage is the beginning of LGBTI equality, not the end.

Everyone knows that after the fairy tale of the wedding, the real hard work of making marriage work begins. So it will be with Equal Marriage. Once it is achieved – and it seems to be looming closer right now – we have a hard road ahead.

In fact, we need not wait on Equal Marriage before we pursue other urgent issues. We could set to work now. Here are my notes towards a national LGBTI rights agenda. It’s not meant to be exhaustive: please feel free to add yours in the comments below.

EDUCATION

End the indoctrination of children via the chaplaincy and special religious instruction programs in all schools.

Replace by qualified school counsellors, and comparative religion courses delivered by fully-qualified teaching staff.

A compulsory national curriculum of fully inclusive age-appropriate sex and relationship education, specifically including LGBTI relationship and sex advice, delivered by appropriately qualified teaching staff, in all schools..

Anti-bullying programs, specifically including anti-homophobia training, mandatory in all schools.

More broadly, an overhaul of the national curriculum to ensure that the contributions of LGBTI people are specifically included in all core subjects in the arts and sciences.

An annual LGBTI History Month

HOMELESSNESS

Anecdotal evidence indicates that LGBTI people are especially vulnerable to homelessness, at any age. LGBTI kids are thrown out of home by prejudiced parents. LGBTI seniors often have no family members to look out for them or take care of them.

We need a rigorous investigation into the extent of LGBTI homelessness, and specific places and programs to address it.

DISCRIMINATION

A Bill of Rights

An end to exemptions to anti-discrimination law: laws must be the same for all.

All organisations doing business with state or federal governments, and/or in receipt of public funds, must have regularly verified and externally monitored LGBTI-specific anti-discrimination policies and procedures.

Anti-discrimination commissions (state and federal) be given the power to take over individual complaints and act for the complainant, and to initiate investigations even in the absence of specific complaints.

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. If the effect of an action is to discriminate against a person or class of persons, then it is discrimination, regardless of the alleged intent. The law should make this clear.

INTERSEX

No surgeries or other medical interference on intersex children without their informed consent.

SPORT

Did you know that the AFL is exempt from income tax? As is every AFL club? So they have a special responsibility to take the lead in ending discrimination in sport.

Every sport, starting with the AFL, to introduce grass-roots anti-homophobia education, from the smallest local club to the highest levels of the game, devised and delivered by external training organisations with experience in the field, e.g., the local anti-discrimination commission. Costs to be met by the code governing body.

Pro-active enforcement of anti-LGBTI vilification rules on the pitch (zero tolerance for sledging), and among spectators, with an escalating scale of expulsions, fines and bans. Backed by law.

AGED CARE

Provide dignity and respect in both in home and residential aged care for LGBTI.

Fund LGBTI aged care, especially care in the community and the home, adequately. Residential care will often not be appropriate for LGBTI.

Weave LGBTI issues through all carer training.

MEDICINE

LGBTI health to be a mandatory integral component of all medical training. At present, if it happens at all, it’s a rushed day or so on the topic: it needs to be woven through all topics.

TRANS

No forced divorce for married couples when one transitions

Hormone treatment and gender affirmation surgery covered by Medicare

RELIGION

For a very long time religions, and religious-owned and run businesses, have had extraordinary privileges in the form of tax and rate exemptions worth, in 2009, over $31billion a year. They have the further privilege of extensive exemptions to anti-discrimination law.

At the same time, a great deal of what used to be government business, e.g., in employment, aged care, has been outsourced to them.

Now they want yet more, arguing for private businesses to be given the same privileges as religious owned businesses in respect of anti-discrimination law, and asking for special anti-vilification provisions.

Let’s be clear. Once you enter the public domain, you cannot expect your business to be given special privileges over other business just because an owner or employee happens to adhere to a particular belief system. You cannot expect to impose your religious beliefs on others not of your faith.

There’s a word for a legal system that does that. Sharia.

YES MINISTER

A Minister with responsibility for LGBTI people

We need a one-stop shop responsible across the whole of government for pursuing our concerns as outlined here, yet despite forming between 3-6% of the population (at a conservative estimate), there is no one ‘go to’ person in the federal government.

CENSUS

If we don’t appear in the stats we don’t get funding. Add sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex questions to all national surveys e.g., the census, so we can actually see what the challenge is and how interventions are or aren’t effective.

Change all official forms to include Other besides M and F, or remove gender markers altogether where the information is not relevant.

ADOPTION & SURROGACY

We should be able to adopt and access altruistic surrogacy in precisely the same way that straight people can.

Commercial surrogacy should be legalized.

HEALTH

End the 12 month blood ban

Tackle high rates of mental ill-health and recreational drug and alcohol abuse

Make PreP available on PBS

REFUGEES

End the refusal of asylum to LGBT refugees: priority to be given to LGBTI refugees from countries where homosexuality is illegal.

No resettlement to any country without full LGBTI rights, and no refoulment. Resettlement only on the Australian mainland.

POLICE

End the failure of police and prosecutors to tackle anti-LGBT hate crimes (especially when race and religion are involved).

Full independent public enquiry into the bashings and murders of Sydney gay men in the 1970s and 1980s.

All police forces to have a permanent independent external body, populated with elected community representatives (not police, ex-police, or police appointees) to monitor performance and investigate corruption and complaints, with powers to compel change and order redress.

MARRIAGE

And finally. The simplest, yet the biggest, and the toughest – so far. A sex and gender neutral marriage law, which allows any two adults to marry on exactly the same terms and with exactly the same rights, responsibilities and privileges currently enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

I left this till last, because it is the one most likely to succeed in one form or another in the very near future. But marriage is, as many have rightly pointed out, only a symbol. A very powerful and important one which says, loud and clear, that LGBTI people and their chosen life partners shall not be treated as in any way differently, in any area of life. Our relationships should be respected, honoured and celebrated exactly like everyone else’s.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)