Thursday, 22 November 2012

Former PM Bob Hawke SPEAKS NOW

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke has stated that he is 'very much in favour' of the law being changed to permit same-sex couples to marry.

Bob Hawke in his younger years
On Wed. 21st November, ABC News chief political crrespondent Simon Cullen posted a story about an appearance by Hawke and another former PM, John Howard, at a charity event in support of Lifeline.

Prompted by the host of the event, former TV presenter Ray Martin, John Howard refused to change his position on same-sex marriage but Hawke was quoted as saying:

'I feel very deeply on all issues of discrimination, and in this area of sexual discrimination it just needs to be said straightforwardly -- you can be born with curly hair, you can be born with this gene-disposition towards homosexuality. If a person is born that way and they want to have the rights of the institutions of our society, they should have them.'

In her coverage of the same event for GAYSTAR NEWS, Anna Leach cites Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Rodney Croome, who welcomes the support of the former PM and contrasts Hawke's position with that of current Labor PM, Julia Gillard, which he finds deeply disappointing. 

In June, Gillard told same-sex marriage campaigners that her own relationship proved that you don't need marriage to show commitment. (Gillard lives with her partner Tim Mathieson but they have not married.) Her example failed to convince campaigners who pointed out that she had the choice whether or not to marry, while same-sex couples don't have the same choice under law.

Anna Leach also raised the comments allegedly made by another former Labor PM, now back-bencher Kevin Rudd, in July, that Gillard's position on the issue stems from a deal with the Christian right of her party to guarantee their support of her leadership.  If that were true, Gillard would have felt quite safe in allowing a conscience vote on her side of the House when it came up in Parliament, knowing that enough conservative Labor members would vote against it and the proposed changes to the Marriage Act would fail.  Rudd later denied making the suggestion.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

New Zealand SPEAKS NOW

After the spineless performance by Federal MPs in Australia, who voted down changes to the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry (despite the surge of public opinion in favour), New Zealand is preparing to show the Aussies the way.

Here are some links to the same sex-marriage debate in New Zealand.

The first link is to a member’s bill on the New Zealand Parliament website. From the right hand menu on this page you can read the debate notes for the first reading and the evidence presented to the select committee.

The Marriage (definition  of Marriage) Amendment Bill is in the name of Labour MP Louisa Wall.

The MP submitted the bill to a ballot of member bills and it was drawn on 26/7/2012. The first reading was held on 29/8/2012 and was passed 80-30 (conscience vote) to be referred to Government Administration Committee – a cross-party select committee of MPs which will examine the bill, listen to submissions (submissions were due 26/10/2012), and report back to the House by 28/3/2013. The committee may recommend amendments which are voted on during the second reading. If it passes the second reading the bill then goes to the committee of the whole House (all MPs) when MPs can put forward further amendments in the form of Supplementary Order Papers. The 3rd and final reading is then held and, if passed, the bill is then given royal assent.

Incidentally, Prime Minister John Key has said he will support the vote through all stages.

Evidence to select committee:

Louisa Wall email and Wiki link:

Wiki on  same-sex marriage in NZ:

Other links:

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Federal pollies SPEAK NOW

On Monday June 25th, representative of the Australian Federal Parliament’s lower house began to debate proposed amendments to the Marriage Act.  We know already that members of the Government party, the ALP, will not be held to voting along Party lines and are permitted to vote ‘according to their conscience’.  The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Tony Abbott has refused members of the coalition parties similar freedom.

This is not good news for activists who have been lobbying long and hard for the changes, as several of the ALP reps actually support the status quo.  So – even if the independents were to vote in favour of the amendments (which is highly unlikely) – the government’s slim majority would not be enough for the amendments to be passed, unless an equal number of Liberal/National party coalition members were in favour, which is also highly unlikely as speeches made to the House from that side of politics make abundantly clear. 

The Hon Deborah O’Neill, who holds the seat of Robertson for the ALP, spoke against the proposed changes, citing Terri Kelleher from the Australian Family Association that “it is uncontroversial to insist that the ideal family environment is that in which children are raised by their own mother and father.” 

In reifying the ‘ideal’, the AFA and Ms O’Neill ignore the reality that the ideal is simply not sustained by the facts of diverse family structures that already exist on the ground.  Ms O’Neill should consult with case workers from the various Departments of Community Services to ascertain a more accurate reading of the facts.  It is simply not true that a couple of straight kids who conceive a child are going to make the best parents. Many same-sex couples are conscientiously raising the cast-off children of heterosexuals.

The Hon Bob Baldwin, who holds the seat of Patterson for the Liberal Party also spoke against the proposed amendments and – like several of the naysayers – expressed hurt that he had been labeled as homophobic for his views.  Barry Haase (he holds Durack for the Liberal Party), rose to “fiercely defend the status quo”, calling the debate “a waste of time in this place because there are so many other vitally important issues to be debated.” 

Alby Schultz (Hume, for the Liberal Party) defended the “sanctity of marriage” averring that “the Bill is about future muzzling of churches, requiring primary and secondary schools and even kindergartens to indoctrinate children that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual lifestyles, as well as having two mothers and two fathers is no different from having a mother and father.”

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Member of NSW State Parliament SPEAKS NOW

Member of the Legislative Council, the The Hon. Walter Secord, gave the following speech to the New South Wales Parliament's upper house, in support of the motion which will go to the vote tomorrow (May 31).  His comments about his parents' situation, in Canada, is valuable personal testimony. 
(It should be noted, in regard to his final comments, that neither of the Bills before Federal Parliament would require churches to conduct same sex weddings, were they to make it into law...)

The Hon. WALT SECORD [May 24 - 12.12 p.m.]: 
I take this opportunity to speak to the motion on marriage equality.
While laws relating to marriage in Australia are Commonwealth responsibility, the question of gay and lesbian marriage is now debated widely in our community and around the world. About 10 countries recognise same-sex marriage, including South Africa, Canada, the Netherlands and Argentina. In the United States, Maryland is set to become the eighth jurisdiction to grant same-sex couples the right to marry.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia all recognise same-sex marriages. The Maryland law is scheduled to take effect in January 2013.
However, earlier this month North Carolina joined about 30 other States by banning same-sex marriage, while President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden indicated their support for gay marriage.

That said, in recent years Australia and New South Wales have undergone considerable gay law reform. In Australia the Federal Labor Government introduced more than 80 amendments to give same-sex couples equal rights before the law regarding issues such as superannuation and taxation. In 1999 the New South Wales Carr Labor Government introduced reforms to State relationships laws in relation to property interests if a relationship broke down. This included amending the definition of "de facto spouse" to include same-sex cohabiting couples.
In 2008 the New South Wales Labor Government introduced further same-sex relationship reforms, including providing for a consistent definition of "de facto partner" that incorporated same-sex partners, across most of this State's laws. As a result, de facto couples have the same access to a wide range of legal rights and entitlements. In New South Wales on 1 July 2010 the Keneally Government commenced the operation of the New South Wales Relationship Register to make it easier for unmarried couples, homosexual or heterosexual, to prove they were in a committed or de facto relationship and have access to legal entitlements.

Last year in New South Wales 420 same-sex relationships were officially registered with the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Australian people have strong views about gay marriage with more than 60 per cent supporting the concept. However, younger Australians overwhelmingly support the right of same sex couples to marry.
This suggests that an element of social norms is influencing our views on a legal rights issue. As those norms shift over time, the legal position will be less coloured. Therefore, I believe marriage equality is inevitable in Australia. I have grappled with this issue for a long time.
Members of this Chamber will be aware of my views on a range of subjects. I support Aboriginal reconciliation, I am an advocate for the elderly and other minorities, and I believe in education against genocide, prejudice and racism. This leads me to my position on marriage equality.

Over the years, one factor that informs my view is my personal racial background. I am the product of an interracial marriage: my father is a Mohawk-Ojibway Indigenous person and my mother is an Anglican Anglo-Canadian of European descent. As a child growing up in rural Canada, I saw firsthand the prejudice towards my parents' relationship. At that time, when I was a very young child, no doubt some people felt that Indigenous people and Europeans should not marry—particularly, an Indigenous male and a European woman.
If Canadian law had purely reflected some of the views of the community and that generation, my parents' marriage would have been illegal. For the record, while interracial marriages were not banned, they were highly unusual and it is safe to say that they were frowned upon.

Indeed, not so long ago in this country—in fact, up until the 1930s—State officials were allowed to determine who Aborigines could or could not marry.
In Queensland, these restrictions were to limit black and white unions, and in Western Australia it was to prevent so-called "half-castes" from marrying other Aboriginal people.
It was not until 1967 that the Supreme Court in the United States ruled that a ban on inter­racial marriages was unconstitutional and removed that stain from American society. The reality of today is twofold.
Firstly, my parents remain happily married and have been exceptional role models to their family and our community. Secondly, we all agree that withholding the right to marry on racial grounds is repugnant. In my view, the parallels on the prohibition on inter-­racial marriage and same-sex marriage are clear. We can no more deny someone's right to enter a civil union based on their gender or sexual orientation than we can on their skin colour. Therefore, the right to marry restricts a person's full citizenship.

On human rights grounds, all Australians must be treated fairly and equally, regardless of their sexual orientation. All people are equal before the law and should be entitled to the same fundamental rights.
Therefore, I believe allowing same-sex couples the right to marry removes a legal and social discrimination; it supports full and equal citizenship.
If we prohibit one section of the community from marrying another, it is a violation of their human rights.
Therefore, I support the motion before the Chamber that the Federal Government should amend the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 to provide for marriage equality. This motion is similar to the one passed successfully by the Tasmanian House of Assembly in September 2011. However, I stress that just as I am cautious about the role of personal beliefs in determining laws, I am equally cautious about any attempt for the law to impinge on personal religious beliefs.

I acknowledge the strongly held views against same-sex marriage on both sides of this Chamber and on the crossbenches. I also agree that sanctioning gay marriage will not remove homophobia and discrimination in our society.
Many people, particularly those of strong faith, believe that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman. I therefore strongly agree that religious institutions should not and must not be forced to officiate marriages that they do not wish to.

I conclude my comments with a brief personal note. On 18 August 2006 I attended a same-sex civil union celebration in Sydney between two male friends, Mr Justin Di Lollo and Mr Marek Craker. It was conducted under United Kingdom law at the British Consulate-General with the assistance of the British consul-general, as Mr Craker is a British citizen. In total, the couple has been together for more than 16 years. They are still together in a loving and committed relationship.
I ask: On what grounds could I possibly deny their right to enjoy the same public recognition of their commitment as I, a heterosexual, have access to?
The issue of marriage equality for same-sex couples is about the granting of full citizenship. We all deserve the same and equal recognition under Australian law.
In conclusion, I acknowledge my colleagues, the Hon. Helen Westwood and the Hon. Penny Sharpe for their hard work and commitment to this policy area.
I commend the motion to the House.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Does Bill Shorten SPEAK NOW, from both sides of his mouth?

Mr Shorten,

we admire you, both on your record and on your recent performance in the Ministry.  But our household groaned in unison when you were content to speak from both sides of your mouth on the issue of same-sex marriage on ABC TV's Insiders program, Sunday May 20.

It might be good enough for Tony Abbott, with that carefully placed article in the Weekend Australian magazine a few weeks back, revealing he had a gay sister (who apparently won't mind if he stabs her in the back!)  We expected better of you, frankly.

Let me make this clear: when you pick up on the toxic teaching of some churchmen, you are IGNORING the fact that neither of the proposed Bills that will be debated in the House would require churches to conduct same-sex weddings, if a change to the law were enacted.

Less than half of 'straight' weddings are conducted in churches these days, in any case (don't you know that?)

So, let them continue with their exclusivist hypocrisy, marriage IS a civil union; the religious choices couples may make are a separate issue.

You adroitly straddled the fence and managed to sound like a 'typical politican' and we are disappointed (especially as you are shaping up, in the public imagination, as a reasonable proposition for Leader... Rudd is finished.)

We will be watching how you vote.  Meanwhile, we will vote Greens.

Victor Marsh, PhD
Editor, "Speak Now: Australian perspectives on same-sex marriage"
(Melbourne: Clouds of Magellan, 2011)

(this publication carries a Foreword by the Hon. Michael Kirby, whom you like to cite, by the way!)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

You can speak now!

On Friday May 11, the New South Wales Upper House will consider a motion moved in support of same-sex marriage.

Similar motions have already been passed by parliaments in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Australian Marriage Equality is providing a website through which you can urge NSW upper house members to support the motion, here:

Interestingly, the Liberal/National coalition has released its members to vote on the matter as an issue of conscience, rather than holding them to a pre-determined Party line, which increases the possibility of it passing.

How will conservative MPs vote? And what will be the ramifications at the Federal level, when this issue comes up for a vote in Canberra?

Obama speaks now!!

U.S. President Barack Obama endorsed same-sex marriage on Wednesday, clarifying his views following unexpected comments on the issue by his Vice President, Joe Biden, in an interview with NBC last weekend.

Biden told NBC's Meet the Press that he was 'personally comfortable' with same-sex marriage.

A poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News in March found that 52 percent of adults now thought it should be legal for gay couples to marry.

The President was interviewed by ABC News reporter Robin Roberts, saying that 'for me personally it is important to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.' 

The President and the Attorney General had previously directed Department of Justice lawyers not to defend challenges to the constitutionality of Federal law on the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a women.

However, as marriage licences are granted by individual states, not the Federal government, it can only be read as a stance on moral principle than a signal of a change in Federal law. (It is likely that Republican representatives would block any attempt to repeal DOMA in Washington.)

In fact, the state of North Carolina, which had already previously voted not to allow same-sex marriage went further by passing a law to change the State's constitution to strengthen the ban, following the example of other States in the region. 

Opponents of same-sex marriage averred the measure was necessary to prevent courts or future legislatures from invalidating the law, while civil rights groups criticised it as a 'step backward' as it would bar even the milder form of civil unions and could have unintended consequences for straight couples.  Former President Bill Clinton had expressed his opposition to the measure, while the Rev. Billy Graham and Republican primary hopeful Newt Gingrich spoke out in favour.

'At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage,' ran Graham's statement. 'The Bible is clear -- God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment.'
The front runner for the Republican presidential candidacy, Mitt Romney, was cautious when asked to respond to Obama's statement.  Romney noted that this was a 'tender and sensitive topic, as are many social issues' but affirmed that his view remains that 'marriage itself is a relationship bewtween a man and a woman'.  Romney had opposed changes to the marriage law when he was Governor of Massachusetts.

The chairman of the Republican National Committe Reince Priebus accused Obama of 'playing politics' on the issue. 'We support maintaining marriage between one man and one woman and would oppose any attempts to change that', he stated.

Meanwhile, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hailed the President's statement as 'a major turning point  in the history of American civil rights'. 

Monday, 9 April 2012

you can SPEAK NOW

Alex Greenwich, of Australian Marriage Equality, has drawn our attention to an anonymous online survey by which a committee of the Australian federal parliament's House of Representatives is trying to gauge community attitudes to proposed changes in the Marriage Act.

The House of Reps 'standing committee on social policy and legal affairs' is encouraging all interested parties to express their views on the TWO marriage bills before the House.  The committee will then provide a report to  Parliament summarising the issues and contributions to the inquiry.  The Bills will then be debated in the House of Representatives.

Last week opponents of same-sex marriage asked for 80,000 people to complete the survey, so it's a good opportunity to counter that negative push and demonstrate that there are many more people concerned to grant equal status to all Australian citizens.

You can take the survey online at:
Alternatively, your views and comments can be sent to the Committee via email:

or posted to:

Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee,
House of Representatives,
PO Box 6021,
Parliament House,
Canberra ACT 2600. 

The closing date for responses to the inquiry is 20 April 2012.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Tony Abbott SPEAKS NOW (from both sides of his mouth)

Meanwhile, the Weekend Australian Magazine (April 07-08) carries a cover story revealing that Tony Abbott, leader of the Opposition, has a sister, Christine, who is gay, and that he and his wife and daughters are kindly disposed towards her partner, Virginia. 

Yet he maintains a hard (Catholic) line against same-sex marriage, and feature writer Kate Legge construes this as a plus. 'So, when his sister came out, did he waiver?' she asks.  Legge applauds Abbott's ability to play both sides of the fence as evidence of being 'true to his philosophy' and casts the sister as a 'huge fan' of her brother. 'Political integrity requires the Coalition to maintain its position', he is quoted as saying, after 'toying briefly' with allowing coalition MPs a conscience vote on same sex marriage.

With the help of the Weekend Australian Mr Abbott is trotting out a bogus new line which is as old as his toxic religion.  The hypocrisy of “I’m not a bigot, look! Some of my best friends (and my sister!) are gay” might sit comfortably with a politician used to speaking from both sides of his mouth.  But are we supposed to believe these alleged friends (and his sister) are happy with the implication “You’re my friend, so you won’t mind if I stab you in the back”?   

There are several points in her writing where Legge betrays her complicity in political spin.  Only a writer for The Australian, where the line between political spin and journalism was long ago lost, would promote this spurious makeover of Abbott as a kinder, gentler leader.

If Abbott gains power in Canberra, will he emulate the triumphant Campbell Newman, the new conservative Premier of Queensland, whose first fiat after gaining a landslide victory in the recent elections was to cancel the Premier's literary awards?  The cost of the Awards was a mere drop in the state budget, so the symbolism was striking.  Outgoing Premier Anna Bligh used to actually read all the finalists in each category of those awards, and she led the support for the change in the ALP's Party platform to allow same-sex unions equal status in law.  Newman doesn't need literature.

In the same edition of the Weekend Australian magazine (p. 40), Phillip Adams commented on 'private polling' showing that only 25% of men in Queensland were willing to vote for a woman. Abbott has the advantage of being the 'right' gender to lead the conservative forces and, aware that he will need at least some women to vote for him and his cohort, is rolling out the hypocritical makeover version as a kind family man, co-opting his feisty, non-conformist sister as an ally.  'The last thing she wants is to become a public spectacle', he protests lamely. 

Oh please! pass me the barf bag...

Alyena Mohummadally SPEAKS NOW

Pakistani-Australian lawyer Alyena Mohummadally,  who penned one of the most moving chapters in SPEAK NOW with her partner Catherine Roberts, is featured in the cover story of this week's Good Weekend magazine  'Dangerous Liaisons: The Secret Lives of Gay Arabs in Australia' (Fairfax/Sydney Morning Herald/The Age April 6-8, 2012).

Prominent journalist David Marr profiles gay Australians of middle eastern background whose families reject their sexuality. Marr depicts the difficulties produced by non-conformist children bringing shame on their families and communities.

For those who fondly believe the days of the closet are well and truly gone, this feature article is a reminder of the real suffering many young people undergo among various communities within Australia.

Marr also interviews courageous people within those communities who are working to change attitudes. In 2004 Alyena Mohummadally set up a pioneering online forum, 'Queer Muslims in Australia':

At first, she was terrified of repercussions but the online forum has assisted many in coming to terms with their sexuality, their religion, and the atttiudes of family and the wider communities and in Marr's article Alyena testifies how she has gradually gathered courage.

Her moving piece for SPEAK NOW is encouraging, too.  Her Pakistani-born father did not respond as you might expect when Alyena and Catherine affirmed their commitment to each other. 

Yet under Australian law, they are not permitted to marry.  Neither the ruling Australian Labor Party, which holds a tenuous grip on power at the Federal level, while gradually losing it in the majority of state parliaments, has failed to do the right thing and truly lead the country on this civil rights issue.  Meanwhile, the opposition coalition parties, led by Tony Abbott (sometimes called 'Captain Catholic') does not feel the need to alienate their conservative base. Their continuing success at state level (witness the landslide at the recent Queensland elections) provide ominous signs of a distinct lurch to the right.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Katter speaks now!

Meanwhile, Bob Katter, MP, the independent federal member for Kennedy,  has set up an alternative political party which is running candidates in the Queensland State election next week.  Katter, who presumes to call his party 'Australian' has re-stated his opposition to same-sex unions, ignoring the protests of his gay (half)brother, Carl.

Bob Katter, called the 'mad Katter' in tweets from Carl, has run a series of TV ads slandering such unions in the run-up to the Queensland State elections.
Tweeted Carl: 'They a(re) using the politics of fear & hate to win vote(s). They truly are desperate to use such grubby tactics!'

As well as Greens leader Bob Brown, the ads target Qld LNP leader Campbell Newman, accusing him of supporting same-sex marriage. Newman is trying to win a seat in State parliament by running against the Labor incumbent in the State seat of Ashgrove.

Naturally, Mr Newman has avoided repeating his personal support for gay marriage, saying it's now 'immaterial'.  As leader of the LNP, which voted against same-sex civil unions laws, saying it would consider repealing them if it wins government on March 24, Newman has conveniently shelved his personal view. 
'I said a long, long time ago that I had a personal view about it,' he told Network Ten. 'My personal view is actually immaterial because my team in parliament last year voted against the state Labor government's civil unions bill.'

The Herald Sun claimes that the television commercial targeted Newman because KAP (Katter Australia Party) needs to steal voters from the rival conservatives of the Liberal National Party.

The Labor Premier Anna Bligh described the ad as 'bizarre' and 'way, way beyond what we expect in a political campaign'.

In spite of using the misnomer 'Australian' as the name of his new party,  Katter's vision clearly does not embrace all Australians. Will he now try to attract the constituency of racists formerly aroused by the regettable Pauline Hanson to render his vision for an Australia acceptable to like-minded buffoons?

Compromise looming?

Queensland Liberal MP Warren Entsch is proposing a civil unions bill to replace the other Bills already mooted to amend the Marriage Act in Parliament

In a television interview, Entsch  attested that his proposal would not 'muddy the waters' of this civil rights issue, but in fact, by offering an easy way out for politicians unwilling to grant equal rights, his proposal has ALREADY muddied the waters.

Mr Entsch, who supports equal rights for same-sex couples, said he had talked to MPs from all sides of politics and didn't believe the gay marriage bills would pass. 
"I'm finding in this place that there are those who are absolutely locked on and they are not going to move," Mr Entsch told ABC TV.
"Others are a little bit more, I guess, flexible in their thinking, have some level of discomfort about gay marriage but are very comfortable with the concept of some sort of a civil partnership arrangement."

All too ready to take the bait was former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, whose electorate famously includes a large bloc of G&L voters...
"It would be a tragedy if this parliament did not take the opportunity to at least legislate for civil unions. Marriage is a bridge too far for some people," said Turnbull.

Mr Entsch said this was something that should be ready to go, should there be support. He said he believed it could pass parliament.
"This is not a civil unions bill for the gay community. This is across the spectrum," he said.
"Any couple, irrespective of gender, who make a decision that they want to have their relationship registered and their commitment acknowledged can do so through this without having to go through the Marriage Act."

Bills amending the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples have been proposed by by Labor MP Stephen Jones and jointly by Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent Andrew Wilkie. Both have been referred to parliamentary committees for detailed examination.

A third bill has been proposed by the Greens in the Senate. The Greens have urged Labor to stand firm against any proposal to substitute marriage equality bills currently before the parliament with one for civil unions.
"Civil unions are no substitute for marriage," Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said in a statement.
"Such a proposal would entrench discrimination because it says to same-sex couples they don't deserve the same rights as others and that their relationships are second class."

reported by

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Churches divided on same-sex marriage

While the Rev. Alistair McRae, who is President of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church of Australia equivocated on the issue of same-sex marriage on ABC RN yesterday,  Rev. Harry Herbert penned a strong op-ed article strongly supporting the cause, published in today's National Times. (Herbert is Exec. Director of Uniting Care NSW/ACT.) 

Alistair McRae was interviewed on RN's vigorous new Religion and Ethics program, presented by Adam West, and the full report can be accessed at the website:

Harry Herbert's opinion piece can be accessed here:

SPEAK NOW carries other strong articles in favour of same-sex marriage by a Baptist pastor in Melbourne, Rev. Nathan Nettleton, and retired Uniting Church luminary, Rev. Dorothy McRae McMahon. Nettleton, who had previously testified before a Senate inquiry into changing the marriage laws, was thereafter required by church higher-ups to offer the disclaimer that his vews did not represent the Baptist church.

Last December,  Matt Glover, the Lilydale (Victoria) Baptist pastor who had expressed support for gay marriage, was sacked at a secret church meeting to which he was not invited. The Lilydale church office confirmed to The Age newspaper that Mr Glover was no longer senior pastor, but said the congregation had been instructed to remain silent.

RN's Adam West also interviewed New Zealander Rev. Dr. David Clarke, a Presbyterian minister newly elected to Parliament across the Tasman, about his 'left-wing' Christianity and his officiating at a ceremony honouring a same-sex union for NZ Labor's Deputy Leader, Grant Robertson.

We might well ask: if all of these folk claim to be interpeting the will of God, which side is this 'God' on, and whose version of deity rules public discourse? Will there soon be as many deities in the so-called Christian West as there were in ancient India? The whole matter of seeking to know the will of God is fraught with difficulty; to want to impose that version on the rest of the population is, too.

Franciscan friar Richard Rohr once said in another radio interview for RN: 'When religion doesn't move to what I call the mystical level, almost always the substitution for mysticism is morality.' (Religion Report, ABC RN, 15 Nov., 2006). Rohr used the term 'mysticism' simply to mean moving 'beyond external belief systems to inner experience'. Whether relying on the contradictory record of ancient texts as their yardstick, or listening to their so-called consciences, why is it that sincere men and women, using whatever means of communication with their deities, come up with such different rulings?

Neither of the bills to be debated in Canberra in the coming months requires ministers of religion to conduct same-sex marriages in their churches were the Marriage Act to be amended. Trying to impose wildly differing worldviews on the rest of us is eerily reminiscent of the diktats of fundamentalists in conservative religious societies where women are veiled and homosexuals executed.  This is not appropriate for a secular, multicultural society, such as Australia, where religious beliefs and practices are respected but remain, by law, a matter of choice.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Two politicians SPEAK NOW in the House

As Washington State's Governor signed same-sex marriage into law in the U.S., not one but TWO separate Bills were introduced in federal parliament in Canberra on Monday.

The first of these was from the Australian Greens member of the lower house, Adam Bandt, with the support of independent member Andrew Wilkie. 

Labor's Stephen Jones introduced a similar private member's Bill. What this double-barrelled approach will achieve is not clear at this stage.

Aware of opposition from church groups, the Jones version states that ministers of religion would be under no obligation "to solemnise a marriage where the parties to that marriage are of the same sex''.

"This provision will ensure that the principles of religion and religious freedom is maintained when it comes to the laws of marriage in Australia,'' Mr Jones said.

Wilkie also moved a motion asking politicians to make sure that any amendments to the Marriage Act would not force churches to marry same-sex couples, so both Bills contain these protections for the faithful. 

Debate was adjourned after the tabling of the bills and it could be months before they are debated in Parliament.

A week ago, the Greens announced they will move for a Senate inquiry into marriage equality, to investigate Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s 2010 Bill. Gay News Network reports that marriage equality advocates have welcomed the move as a means to help build up support on the issue before a private member’s bill on marriage equality is voted on by MPs later in the year.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Hanson-Young said that there was a good chance that Australians would be celebrating marriage equality by the end of 2012.

“We know that there are some people who still don’t understand or don’t agree with the idea of removing this type of discrimination,” Hanson-Young said. “I am absolutely optimistic that we have a very good chance by the end of this year to be able to look back and say, ‘We did it’.”

National spokesperson for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Shelley Argent, said the inquiry would provide an opportunity for the “many thousands” of parents of gay sons and daughters to have their voices  heard. Argent urges people interested in supporting the Senate hearing to make submissions by April 2nd.

Those people wishing to take the simplest option may forward their letters and statements of support through PFLAG.
Submissions can be quite simple, stating why equality is so important to you, and you need to include name and address.

“We can give our children everything they need in life, but only the Government can give them equality,” Argent said.

Meanwhile, on Valentine's Day, comedian Magda Szubanski has come out passionately in support of the cause, outing herself in the process.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

SPEAK NOW to protest the 'gay panic' defence in Queensland

“Yeah, I killed him, but he did worse to me.” These are the words of a man who reacted to some “gentle touching” from a gay man by ramming his victim’s head against a wall until he was unrecognisable, and then stabbing him to death [1]. 
This infamous 1997 case enshrined the “gay panic” defence in Queensland law -- allowing accused murderers to have charges downgraded if their victim was gay and “came onto” them. Just two years ago, a man was brutally killed in Father Paul Kelly’s church yard, and his killers used this same defence. They were subsequently acquitted of murder [2].
Father Kelly was horrified that this argument was even allowed in court, and wrote to the government along with thousands of others -- they didn’t respond. But with the Liberal National Party likely to win power in the March state election, there’s new hope. Father Kelly has started a petition calling on LNP leader Campbell Newman to abolish the law if he’s elected, and insiders say the party is already wavering.
A recent study named Queensland as Australia’s most homophobic state, and anti-gay violence is reportedly on the rise [3]. Laws like the “gay panic” defence are a crucial part of legitimising and reinforcing a culture which means that 73% of gay and lesbian Queenslanders are subjected to verbal abuse or physical violence for their sexuality [4]. 
While fierce community opposition has convinced almost all other state governments to abolish similar laws, the outcry has fallen on deaf ears in Queensland. It’s now one of the last states upholding the idea that a person can be panicked enough by gay and lesbian people to justify murder. Thousands like Father Kelly are fed up with the inaction -- it’s the perfect moment for Newman to take a stand and promise to deliver where the current government has failed.
This could be the best chance Queensland will have for years to fix what law expert Alan Berman calls a “repulsive and dangerous partial defence”. If thousands of people speak out now, it will force Newman to commit to closing the loophole -- and take meaningful steps towards reducing discrimination and violence towards gay and lesbian people in Queensland. 
Thanks for being part of this,
Nathan and the Change. org team

[1] Courier Mail, “Law says it's not murder if the victim is gay and "comes on to you"
[2] Brisbane Times, “Men jailed over churchyard 'homosexual' bashing death”
[3] Anti-gay violence on the rise
Queensland Australia’s most homophobic state
[4] Dr Alan Berman, legal expert and co-author of a study into homophobic violence in Queensland is an online advocacy platform that empowers anyone, anywhere to start, join, and win campaigns for social change. Millions of people sign petitions on each month on thousands of issues, winning campaigns every day to advance change locally and globally.