One step forward, two steps back for LGBTIQ rights
Just over a week ago I was privileged to attend one of the most moving experiences of my life, the NSW Parliament’s Apology for the violent treatment meted out to the marchers in the first Mardi Gras parade in 1978.
I was one of them, and have marched every year since, a total after last Saturday’s march of 38. My ambition is to make it to the 50th march in twelve years’ time. I’ll be 82 then, but plan to do it, by wheelchair if needs be.
The Apology was of course long overdue, but nonetheless very welcome. Not only was it important to hear MPs from the Liberal, Labor and Greens, as well as one Independent, say how sorry they were that the state’s upholders of law and order behaved in the appalling way they did, but all also expressed their thanks to us. Not just for braving the forces of darkness, but for initiating the legal and social changes we set in train. It was this that moved me to tears.
However, I was soon brought back to reality when Greens MP for Newtown Jenny Leong reminded the House and the audience that the police also needed to apologise for their quite unprovoked brutality. Her call was answered in part last Friday when Superintendent Tony Crandell apologised on behalf of the NSW Police, though Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione still remains silent.
If the apology was one step forward what has happened since represents two steps backwards. These negative developments began with Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi calling for the abolition of the Safe School program, designed to safeguard vulnerable children, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) ones, from harassment and bullying.
Bernardi’s call to take vulnerable children back to the horrors of the dark ages has been picked up and amplified by other troglodytes, including that troublesome back-bencher Tony Abbott. “It’s not an anti-bullying program,” Mr Abbott said. “It’s a social engineering program. Its funding should be terminated” he told News Corp.
To add to the back-stepping, debate flared on ABC TV’s Q&A program last week over claims that same-sex marriage would lead to a new “stolen generation” by panellist Lyle Shelton, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, who said same-sex marriage would see babies taken from their mother’s breast. However, the Christian Lobby is merely an extreme right wing propaganda machine, thankfully not representing any of the recognised churches.
Another backward step is a leaked pamphlet, prepared and funded by Chris Miles, a former Liberal MP, set to feature in the upcoming plebiscite against same-sex marriage. It claims that children of gay and lesbian parents are more prone to “abuse and neglect” and more likely to be unemployed, and to abuse drugs and suffer depression.
Mr Miles cites a report to congress by the US Department of Health and Human Services as the source for this claim. This is at best arrant nonsense, totally at odds with what research tells us, and at worst it is a blatant lie.
So not surprisingly, the Australian Greens have warned that the pamphlet is a window into the campaign being planned by opponents of marriage equality, in preparation for a plebiscite on the issue.
“This flyer is the latest example of this ugly campaign against equality,” Greens marriage equality and sexuality spokesperson Senator Robert Simms said.
The pamphlet is an indication of the depths to which the opponents of same-sex marriage will sink. It reminds me that Prime Minister Turnbull’s championing of the plebiscite is the price he had to pay for the support of right wing Liberals in toppling Tony Abbott. A cruel irony, given that Mr Turnbull is a supporter of marriage equality and the parliamentary numbers indicate that a free vote in both houses would result in the Marriage Act being amended to include same-sex couples.