Invasive Weed: Ventrella’s Curse

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The  Australian Christian Lobby conference is over. I’ve written on more than one occasion about Jeffery Ventrella, lead lawyer at the Alliance Defending Freedom. This incredibly well-financed organisation has offices in many countries, providing advice, support, and lawyers on the ground: to help local faith-based groups oppose decriminalisation; lobby local legislators to strengthen anti-G.A.Y.* laws; and draft “model” anti-G.A.Y.* bills.

Here’s a brief glimpse of Ventrella at the ACL conference, confronted by Pauline Pantsdown (Simon Hunt) dressed as a concentration camp inmate.

One of the ADF’s many current cases is fighting decriminalisation in Jamaica, an intensely homophobic country that has recently shown signs of progress. Nine faith-based groups, supported by the Alliance, have banded together to fight attempts by activist Maurice Tomlinson and his husband Tom Decker to overturn the colonial era anti-sodomy law.

BTW He could use some help: you can contact him at maurice_tomlinson@yahoo.com

Maurice Tomlinson and Tom Decker (Photo: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network)

Maurice Tomlinson & Tom Decker (Pic: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network)

“If you belong to a faith group anywhere in the world that believes that Tom and I are NOT criminals and should NOT be sent to prison, please let me know. Also, would you or your group be willing to sign an open letter condemning this British, colonially imposed law? Thanks! Maurice”

 

 

 

Over in the US, you may have heard of the so-called “bathroom bills” in North Carolina and Mississippi but they are just “the tip of the iceberg” of anti-gay legislation sponsored by Ventrella and friends, according to Matt Beard of AllOut. He says that in the first 10 weeks of this year, over 200 anti-LGBT bills were introduced across 32 US states. Dozens are still being considered right now.

The backlash to marriage equality in the US is in full swing. G.A.Y.* groups are scrambling to fight back: they did not see this coming. We, however, are forewarned, and need to get busy right away. Or else this is what we can look forward to in Australia, even if marriage equality becomes the law, as the Australian Christian Lobby ramps up its campaigns, backed by the millions of dollars of the Alliance Defending Freedom. You might call this “Ventrella’s Curse”, a noxious weed with deep American roots. Matt Beard describes what the ADF are up to, and will soon be bringing our way.

Imagine being denied a ride in a taxi because you “look gay.” Or being criminally prosecuted for using a bathroom aligned with your gender identity. This is USA 2016.

A horde of bigoted lawyers have been working towards this horror show for years. They’re called “Alliance Defending Freedom” (ADF). They have lots of money and lots of power. If they have their way, more U.S. states will join them on the wrong side of history this year.

 

 

Already the Australian Christian Lobby is calling for the suspension or removal of Australian anti-discrimination and anti-vilification laws, as well as yet more extensive religious “exemptions” – in reality, special religious privileges – if marriage equality goes ahead. This is a straightforward import of the arguments the Alliance Defending Freedom uses when it puts its multi-million dollar muscles to work in the US.

As the LGBT community has made historic gains in the fight for equality in recent years — culminating, most notably, with the Supreme Court’s decision last June to legalize nationwide same-sex marriage — their victories have coincided with the rise of measures offering legal cover to religious detractors, many of whom view open LGBT expression as a lifestyle choice.

Often, these “religious freedom” proposals are drafted with an eye toward creating carve-outs within existing marriage equality or nondiscrimination laws, allowing individuals, businesses, and even government employees to refuse service to someone by claiming a “sincerely held religious belief.”

Backlash Grows Over ‘Religious Freedom’ and ‘Anti-Discrimination’ Push – NBC News, 11 April 2016

For over a year, ADF has been working to pass local school district policies and state-level legislation that would ban transgender students from accessing bathroom and locker room facilities consistent with their gender identity. Beginning in December 2014, ADF emailed public school districts across the country to “advise” them of its recommended “Student Physical Privacy” policy. In February 2015, ADF released amodel state-level bill to prohibit all public school transgender students from using any facility that corresponds with their gender identity. Last year, Nevada, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin all proposed versions of ADF’s bill.

North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law Borrows The Work Of An Extreme Legal Group – Media Matters, 31 March 2016

One way to fight back is on their home turf. Just as the ADF partners with the ACL to promote discrimination, hatred and bigotry here, we can partner with our much bigger and wealthier US campaigning organisations such as AllOut to hit back at the ADF on their home turf. Over to AllOut to explain:

Equality Champions are a global community giving vital year-round support. They allow us to challenge enemies of equality in ways that don’t just win individual battles, but the ultimate struggle for the equality and fairness for all.

When the U.S. state of Georgia came dangerously close to allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, we jumped into action. Over 56,000 All Out members demanded that Georgia’s governor stop the hateful bill. And he heard us loud and clear – the bill was vetoed late last month.

Without the support of the Equality Champions, we won’t be able to stand up to ADF’s next move and mobilize our members at short notice.

Because even though we’ll never be able to match ADF’s big-time budget, the power of thousands united on behalf of equality, truth, love, and justice cannot be ignored.

Help fuel that force and become an Equality Champion today.

As many have said before, we cannot win this war without allies. But we have to overcome our parochial Australian mindset, recognise this is a global war, and that we need global allies. It’s not enough for our own campaigning organisation to borrow expertise from overseas organisations, we have to help our overseas allies too. Either we win this battle for Australia. Or see it overrun with Ventrella’s Curse.

*G.A.Y. = Good As You (the acronym formerly known as LGBTIQQ2A)

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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. And now he’s been nominated for LGBTI Journalist of the Year 2017, which is great news, as he hasn’t won any of these things for years! If you want to nominate him too – the more the merrier – you can do it here http://www.australianlgbtiawards.com.au/public-nominations.html

“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)