Filed under politix

Number one

The number one song in Australia this week is an anthem for same-sex marriage, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Same Love featuring Mary Lambert. It’s a great song with a powerful message about equality and civil rights. So why are our political leaders so out of touch?

Macklemore and Lewis’ chart success comes at a time when both the Australian Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are steadfastly opposed to marriage equality, as are the vast majority of our politicians. Marriage equality bills in both the Senate and House of Representatives were comprehensively defeated last September. Attempts to get same-sex marriage legalised on a state-by-state basis (which I have some issues with) seem to have foundered.

Australia seems no closer to achieving marriage equality today than eight years ago, when Labor and the Coalition combined to pass the Marriage Amendment Act 2004, which first defined marriage with those “one man and one woman” words we’ve heard so many times since.

But public support for gay marriage is at an all-time high. Every time a survey is conducted, the percentage of people in favour of marriage equality creeps ever higher. Across political lines, and across almost every demographic, a clear majority of people is in favour of removing this arbitrary barrier to equal treatment before the law. So why are our politicians so out of touch?

Throughout the history of civil rights, courageous politicians have stood up for what they knew was right, even when doing the right thing was not doing the popular thing. From the abolition of slavery in the US to the abolition of the  White Australia policy in Australia, courageous politicians have stood up for what is right and just, because that is what they are there to do.

Twenty years ago, in 1993, I was one of a small crowd of queers who sat, outside the NSW parliament, into the night to support a conservative politician, Ted Pickering, who that night provided the deciding vote needed to pass anti-gay vilification laws in that state. A small step on the road to securing our rights, and one that could not have been taken without one man stepping up to do what he knew was right, even though his party and the majority of his constituents thought otherwise?

Where are the Ted Pickerings of today? What became of the politician with a conscience, who saw past his/her next reelection bid and had the courage to do what was right, instead of what was popular or, worse, what the church, or industry, or x powerful lobby group, happy?

We press play
Don’t press pause
Progress, march on!
With a veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
‘Till the day
That my uncles can be united by law
Kids are walkin’ around the hallway
Plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful
Some would rather die
Than be who they are
And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start

It’s young people, of course, who mostly listen to new music, and they’re the demographic most clearly in support of equal marriage rights. They have lived their whole lives in a world where acceptance of different sexualities and genders is more-or-less normal. They have grown up with the internet, which opens minds, and social media, which, at its best, opens hearts.

And they are the politicians of the future. I hope they still have this track on their music playlists when it comes time to take the oath of office.

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Lies, damn lies and coalition spin

Joe Hockey and Penny Wong, duking it out yesterday on Twitter:

And, from the linked 7.30 transcript from 8 May:

JOE HOCKEY: Well I’ve just told you. We will cut the public service.

CHRIS UHLMANN: So you’ll cut 20,000 …

JOE HOCKEY: We will cut the public service.

CHRIS UHLMANN: By 20,000.

JOE HOCKEY: And we’ve already said that.

Ah, Joe. You know there’s an internet now and people can look things up?

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Marriage equality: how they voted

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.)
Continue reading

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PFLAG ad for marriage equality

Why is Tony Abbott so scared of a conscience vote? As Amanda Vanstone writes in the Sydney Morning Herald today, his decision to announce there would be no conscience vote, after the parliament had wound up for 2011, goes against his stated position:

He has told Australians that if elected he would not let his personal views dictate policy; nor would he take instructions from Rome. He said these things because he is conscious of the apprehension among women and liberals that he would take Australia to a more conservative position than we now have on issues such as abortion and gay rights. So, the last thing he needs is to act in any way that causes women and liberals to doubt his word. Announcing that he did not want a conscience vote when his party members had dispersed is difficult to explain away. It looks deliberate. Even tricky.

Meanwhile, the extraordinary Shelley Argent and her comrades at Queensland PFLAG have produced the following TV ad, which will reportedly air from tonight.

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Shit Tony Abbott Says

I couldn’t believe nobody had already done this, so I did it. My contribution to the currently-fashionable “shit ____ say” meme.

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Am I, or aren’t I?

our wedding
Above: An event the Canadian government now says never took place.

I woke up this morning to a text message from my husband suggesting I look at the news on same-sex marriage coming out of Canada. “They are a bit concerning,” he said.

Turns out he might not be my husband after all.

Lawyers representing the Canadian Department of Justice are arguing in a Court case that non-residents who married in Canada since 2004 are not legally married if they could not have been married in their country of residence.

Brent and I were married in British Columbia on 25 September 2004.

The case arises out of a peculiarity that those of us who were married in Canada have been aware of for some time: it’s easy enough to go to Canada and get married, but not so easy, when and if the time comes, to get divorced.

Canada’s divorce law carries a one-year residency requirement: to get divorced in Canada, one or both of the parties must have resided for at least 12 months in the province where the divorce is being sought. If you live outside Canada, you are supposed to get divorced in your home country. But that’s of little use if your home country doesn’t recognise your Canadian marriage. Australia, for example.

The case before the Court concerns an unidentified lesbian couple who married in Canada in 2005 and separated in 2009. One of the two lives in Florida, the other in the UK, both places where same-sex marriage is not explicitly recognised. They are seeking a divorce from the Canadian courts (the news reports don’t mention which court the matter is before) and the Canadian government is the respondent in the case.

A submission from the Department of Justice apparently argues that “in order for a marriage to be legally valid under Canadian law, the parties to the marriage must satisfy both the requirements of the place where the marriage is celebrated … and the requirements of the law of domicile of the couple with regard to their legal capacity to marry one another.”

In other words, if you can’t get married in your home country, you can’t get married in Canada either.

The couple are also seeking $30,000 in compensation from the provincial government, for negligent misrepresentation, in the case that their marriage is found to be invalid, which suggests that the government’s response didn’t entirely come out of the blue for their lawyer, like it did for the rest of us. They are reportedly represented by Martha McCarthy, a Canadian barrister who fought the Supreme Court case that legalised same-sex marriage across Canada in 2005.

McCarthy told the Globe and Mail:

It is offensive to their dignity and human rights to suggest they weren’t married or that they have something that is a nullity. It is appalling and outrageous that two levels of government would be taking this position without ever having raised it before, telling anybody it was an issue or doing anything pro-active about it,” she said. “All the while, they were handing out licences to perform marriages across the country to non-resident people.

The response to the news has been one of shock. US sex advice columnist Dan Savage was married in Vancouver in 2005. He has written an extensive blog post on the developments, and is quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying, “When I got out of bed, I was a married man and as soon as I got on my Twitter feed I realized I had been divorced overnight.”

It’s an odd position for the Canadian government to take. The conservatives are currently in power in Canada, but they have said – and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has reiterated today – that they have no plans to revisit the issue. I share Savage’s hopes that “Hopefully this is just one rogue lawyer or two and not policy of Canada’s Conservative government. If it is Canada’s Conservative government then the issue has definitely been re-opened.”

UPDATE, just before posting: Dan Savage has tweeted that the decision appears to have been reversed. No details yet but I’ll add them as they come in.

UPDATE, 06:30 on 14 January: The Canadian Justice Minister has said all same-sex marriages performed in Canada are legally recognised and the government is working to ensure foreign couples married in Canada have access to divorce.

Edited, 08:54 (added quote from Martha McCarthy)

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Turning our backs on the Enlightenment

Will Hutton’s article in The Guardian on the rise of a morally vacant, anti-Enlightenment conservative polity, in Europe and the US:

The dynamic element on the political right across the west is giving up on the Enlightenment. No longer does it want to embrace tolerance, reason, democratic argument, progress and the drive for social betterment as cornerstones of society. Tolerance is dismissed as an indulgence and a lack of moral standards; progress is trashed as an opportunity for social engineering and a cloak to enhance state power and also as featherbedding the feckless, undeserving poor.

Reason, runs this argument, too often identifies problems that require collective rather than individual responses, amplifying the dread power of the state, and democracy means respecting opponents who have views you consider noxious. Away with the whole damn thought system! Altogether, Enlightenment values are not the reason why the west has advanced so far so fast for the last two centuries and more; rather, they are why the west’s economies are in crisis and its societies are fragmenting.

Read the full article.

Available now in the Buggery Boutique

Margaret Thatcher is not dead yet, but surely it can’t be long. While you wait, why not purchase one of these high quality commemorative garments from the Buggery Boutique on RedBubble?

Remember, 100% of the proceeds will be used to buy celebratory beers to mark the Iron Lady’s interment into her final rusting place.

Just click the links to buy.

Version 1 (‘Dead’):
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Version 2 (three for the price of one!):
ddn.png  

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Some days are diamonds

happyday.jpg

Just to recap the news from the last couple of days:

CC-licensed image above: The Happiest Days of our Lives… in Kenosha, by Flickr user angiek47.