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Welcome to democracy, Australian style: you go into a polling booth and you get the choice of an impossible 4-dimensional Sudoku puzzle, or just tick a box labelled ‘cars’, ‘sport’ or ‘legalize weed’ and away you go. The end result? Well, you’re standing in it.
Show that you’re part of the solution, not the problem with this highly wearable garment.
The table below (over the fold) shows how the marriage equality vote went down in the House of Representatives today. I might have something more to say about this in due course, but I’ll just post the roll-call for now.
(Based on the draft Hansard and there may be errors. Let me know if you spot anything wrong and I’ll fix it up.)
Queensland’s LGBT and HIV communities have been hit with a double whammy this morning, showing just how dangerous the new LNP government in that state is.
First came the news that the Queensland government is set to overturn the state’s civil union laws. With a new poll showing that 50% of Australians are in favour of marriage equality, and just 33% opposed, the reported LNP plans represent the opening of a new front in the war on queer civil rights in this country. But given the LNP’s opposition to the legislation when it was passed, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise.
Much more troubling is the announcement this morning that the government has, without warning, pulled all funding from Healthy Communities, the only LGBT health organisation in the state and the front line of Queensland’s HIV prevention effort. Formerly the Queensland AIDS Council, Healthy Communities has been continually funded by Queensland governments of all political stripes since 1988, and currently holds (or rather, held) government contracts valued at $2.6 million for HIV prevention and LGBT health work.
In a press release (PDF link) issued this morning, Healthy Communities has confirmed that 26 of their 35 staff will lose their jobs as a result of the defunding decision.
This is an appalling, short-sighted, ideologically driven decision that will hurt LGBT people in Queensland. Cutbacks in HIV prevention funding in Queensland and Victoria between 1998 and 2006 led to pronounced increases in HIV infections, and this will happen again now.
According to the Queensland health minister, Lawrence Springborg, Healthy Communities is being defunded because it has “lost its way” and that funding is “made available for health campaigns, not advocacy.” This shows just how out of touch the minister is – it displays a complete absence of understanding of the basic principles of health promotion and its smacks of an ideological approach.
Springborg says the LNP government will fund a new AIDS Council – there’s no detail on when that will happen or how, but we can expect it will be a timid, compliant body with no real attachment to the community it is supposed to serve.
Elsewhere: A thoughtful post on the decision on View from the Quarterdeck.
Buggery.org will be participating in the internet blackout in protest over the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) tonight (Australian time). For 24 hours from 1600 AEDT (0500 UTC) the site will be online, but blacked out. More information.
Today marks the sixth anniversary of the passage of the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004, the legislation that enshrined in Australian law the definition of marriage as being between “one man and one woman.” Australia’s DOMA.
The anniversary will be marked by rallies in all the capital cities and a number of regional centres (details), and it’s heartening to see support for equal marriage rights growing in Australia day by day.
Six years ago, when the Howard government introduced, and the Latham opposition immediately supported, this legislation, Brent and I were planning our own wedding, which took place in Canada later that year. I wrote a cranky blog post and very cranky letter to the editor at the time.
Brent and I were the first gay couple we knew to tie the knot. In those days, gay marriage was legal in The Netherlands, Belgium, and a handful of Canadian Provinces. Since then Argentina, the rest of Canada, Iceland, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and five US States have all legalised same-sex marriage. Finland, Slovenia, Luxembourg and Nepal are all committed to legalisation in the near future, and the subject is being energetically debated in many other countries. Same-sex marriage is a global phenomenon, and an unstoppable force.
I’ve been impressed by the degree to which this has become a political issue during the current election campaign. Julia Gillard has been asked repeatedly to explain her party’s position on same-sex marriage, and she has squibbed it every time. The ALP’s position on same-sex marriage (they’re against it, but for state-based “relationship registries”, as long as there’s no ceremony and no-one uses the ‘m’ word) is unsustainable within a party that claims to be progressive, and the party should adopt a more open-minded position. Unfortunately the ALP is scared witless of the political muscle of the Catholic Church and a few other religious minorities. That’s a disgraceful position for a party that claims to be socially progressive, and it partly explains the haemorrhaging of support to the Greens.
Julia Gillard could articulate a more open position on this issue, without unduly scaring the horses. She could acknowledge that it is an issue, for a start, instead of robotically chanting that ‘one man, one woman’ shibboleth. She could affirm that there will be no change in the short term, but espouse a personal belief that change will come when the nation – and the party – is ready. She could suggest we have a national debate on the issue over the coming term, and to develop a legislative response based on that. She could end the hateful and mean-spirited policy that prevents the issuing of ‘certificates of non-impediment to marry’ for same-sex couples intending marriage overseas. Or she could grow a pair and just say what we all know she, and Penny Wong, and probably most of the ALP party room, believes.
In the meantime the voices for same-sex marriage grow stronger and the arguments against it become ever more ineffective. We will win this – we have justice on our side; and a day will come when my Canadian marriage certificate will be recognised in my own country. In the meantime, my love and admiration goes out to all the hard-working queers who are keeping this issue on the agenda, organising the rallies, writing the petitions, fighting the good fight for equality and human rights.
See you at the rally.
One of the perennial set-piece events for the International AIDS Conference is the big, colourful march through the centre of the host city demanding universal access/equal rights/new drugs/whatever the focus is on this time round. Last night’s event, marching through Vienna to Heroes’ Square, was no disappointment.
Many thousands of activists, advocates and people living with HIV made a loud, brash and joyous sight as they moved through the city. For me it’s the one moment of jubilation in a long week of scientific data and depressing news about the march of HIV in the developing world. This year we had extra cause to celebrate – the fantastic news this week about the success of a vaginal microbicide trial – and we made the most of that while working to highlight human rights issues. Will (above) decided he’d stand up for the human rights of African men’s foreskins.