Same – sex marriage is won. My hopes for the future

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Images: iStock

It’s happened. The Upper House and Senate voted overwhelmingly for legalising same – sex marriage on Thursday. There were celebrations and tears across the nation.

61.6% of eligible voters that decided to take part in the postal survey made the decision that people in same – sex relationships should be able to marry. This is quite an optimistic result. It has made me positive for the Australian LGBTQ+ community in the future.

 

Over seven million people believe people in same – sex relationships should be treated legally as those in opposite – sex relationships. They have the choice to make that commitment.

So, what does this mean for young people who are yet to recognise their sexuality or those who have been previously married (in a straight relationship), but find themselves in love with someone of the same sex? Will it easier to admit their same – sex attraction, without fear of retaliation from those who they care about?

The extremes of the ‘Yes’ campaign were right in one sense. This does go beyond marriage for same – sex couples. It should. Here me out and I’ll explain what I mean. My hope is that with this embrace of same – sex couples, that other members of the LGBTQ+ community waill also be embraced – that bisexual and asexual people will be believed and safe. That bisexual men are believed. That transgender, including non – binary people feel safe to come out and express their gender identity. I hope that intersex people will be granted the right to be autonomous and have a voice in what happens to their bodies medically, rather than being forced into having invasive surgeries without their informed consent.

I hope that schools become safer places for LGBTQ+ students and their families. I hope that anti – LGBTQ+ bullying will not be tolerated and that victims don’t have to doubt whether they should speak out in fear of further attacks or rejection from family, school staff, or peers.

I hope that asexual people will be acknowledged in school. I hope that when there is talk about sexuality, there is a separation between sexual and romantic orientation, allowing potentially asexual students the ability to experience their romantic attractions (if they have any), without the worry or confusion.

 

Even though the process was painful for many in the LGBTQ+ community, I hope the vote showed that many non – LGBTQ+ people are willing to treat us like people, not outrageous stereotypes or caricatures. I hope that this means that lesbians and bisexual women are not treated or viewed as a porn fantasy. I hope this means that gay and bi men aren’t negatively stereotyped and attacked because they are not “masculine” enough.

My guess is that over seven million people didn’t buy into the paranoia that gays were out to get kids, or to turn them gay, or that transgender people (especially transwomen) are predators. Like the general population, the vast majority aren’t!

 

So, here’s to love. Here’s to acceptance. And, most importantly, here’s to LGBTQ+ people being free to be who they are without fear.

 

 

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What the same – sex marriage result really means

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Images: iStock

The Senate has voted overwhelmingly to legalise same – sex marriage, forty – three to twelve affirmative. Plus 62.1% of people who took part in the postal vote also voted “Yes”. It’s going to happen.

So, what does that mean? I try and not be too mean about this, but, as I pointed out before, the ‘no’ campaign was a complete failure. Why? I think it was because they had no argument. They focused on Safe Schools. And through that, I truly believe that a lot of it was about painting LGBTQ+ people as sexual predators. The “slippery slope” arguments turned ridiculous and dangerous, with Senator Pauline Hanson saying that there needed to be a referendum to make sure child marriage doesn’t become legal (I’m not kidding).

Most Australians, including senators, obviously took a different approach. They realised that same – sex couples and LGBTQ+ people in general aren’t some sick conspiracy. Most people don’t link same – sex marriage to polygamy, or bestiality or child abuse. Many people, over 7 million Australians, were fair minded and thought about the debate through their own eyes (if they are LGBTQ+) or through the eyes of a friend or family member. The debate was, to many of those Australians, was about the future of their loved ones.

Over 7 million people didn’t think about schools teaching children how to masturbate. Most people who didn’t think that LGBTQ+ people were automatically linked to socialism (even though I do think the “Yes” campaign did become too closely aligned with Socialist Alliance and other far – Left organisations). The last ‘Coalition for Marriage’ advertisement was the most bizarre, making links between same – sex marriage and the Chinese Cultural Revololution of the seventies and eighties. LGBTQ+ people and same – sex marriage activists aren’t out to massacre anyone!

The biggest strength of the same – sex marriage debate (this time around), was that LGBTQ+ people were given a voice, particularly in the media. I think women’s site Mamamia did it the best, doing articles on people who are gay or in same – sex relationships (who may have been in an opposite – sex relationship before) and their families. This put a human face to the debate, taking away the conspiracy theories and paranoia about it. Founder, I think Mia Freedman has been a hero to the LGBTQ+ community over the years. I have so much respect for what she and the other writers and editorial staff.

Same – sex marriage opponents and skeptics haven’t been all bad either. While i think he’s been a scaremonger in the past, I applaud Newscorp’s Andrew Bolt for also giving LGBTQ+ people a voice, both on The Bolt Report, 2GB and on interviews he’s done, including on Christian show Think Again late last year. He has mentiojed his loved ones, including his sister, and their views.

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Andrew Bolt expressed regret on the strains on his relationships with LGBTQ+ friends and family over same – sex marriage.

Love didn’t win. Well, not just that. The humanity of the LGBTQ+ community did. The majority of the Senate and over 7 million Australians showed the LGBTQ+ community that they are viewed as people, worthy of the same legal rights as non – LGBTQ+ people and couples. My hope now is that there is healing in both mental well – being and relationships where there’s been damage.

As I’ve said before, I hope this is only the start — the start of LGBTQ+ people being fully accepted. The start of young people feeling safe admitting they are LGBTQ+ or are questioning their sexuality/ gender identity. The start of LGBTQ+ people being fully acknowledged in education, media and other institutional settings. And, I think the public and the Senate have taken the first step.

UPDATE: potential step back. According to The Guardian, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has caved in  to the conservatives in his party and guarantee anti – discrimination exemptions to charities and civil celebrants. Maybe that was always going to happen.

The vote was a victory, but it doesn’t mean wounds are healed

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To be honest, I hope this is the last time I write about this. The announcement that 61.6% of people who participated in the Marriage Postal Survey said ‘Yes’ include same – sex couples in the Marriage Act.

the result was better than what I thought it might have been. I was fearing it’d been much closer to 50/50, or, frankly, a slight loss for the ‘Yes’ vote.

Some say that this was a ‘a vote of love’ toward the Australian LGBTQ+ community. I believe there is an element of truth to that, to be honest. This vote did prove that many people are willing to see LGBTQ+ people as equal and worthy of love as heterosexual people. I hope that this does signal a future where LGBTQ+ people don’t have to have any fear about coming out, or being seen with their partner/ spouse out in public.

However, and this is a big however, it DOES NOT mean that it was a painless process or that all wounds have been healed. As I wrote in the past, a number of counselling services across the country had seen a spike in the number of calls by LGBTQ+ people who were distressed during the vote. For some, it brought back bad memories and insecurities. The result announced on Wednesday may have relieved some of that, but for other LGBTQ+ people, healing will take a lot longer.

The fact that over seven million voted ‘yes’ may do little to help LGBTQ+ people who have felt betrayed by family members who voted ‘no’ and/ or don’t accept for who thwy are. The process may have poured salt into those wounds that, frankly, may never heal.

I think the debate around around ‘religious exemptions’ and ‘conscientious objections’ have been another hurdle that may also trigger negative memories and feelings from members of the LGBTQ+ community because the validity and value of LGBTQ+ people has been up for  debate. Again. To many, they still don’t feel equal. What LGBTQ+ rights will clash with conservatives and lose out? Exemptions for religious leaders and celebrants were always goibg to happen, and are fine. Extensions to florists, bakers, etc, however concern me (although James Patterson’s Bill has been dropped and Patterson is willing to debate and work to ammend the Dean Smith Bill. Let’s hope the Bill doesn’t end up opening Pandora’s box and allow other discrimination; against children with LGBTQ+ parents, for instance.

 

The last few days have brought a lot of people joy. Many may have found solace in the huge ‘yes’ response and that may have been enough to heal any hurt, fears and doubts. But it’s also true that, for a number of LGBTQ+ people, familial and friend rejection and the pain it’s caused will override the ‘national cuddle’. Because if you don’t feel accepted by the people you love the most, over seven million ‘hugs’ from strangers will seem hollow.

How did you find the Australian Marriage postal survey and the debate?

 

 

 

A big call out to LGBTQ+ supporters

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In the eve of the same – sex marriage postal survey announcement, I want to give a shout out to all those who stood by and advocated on behalf of many LGBTQ+ Australians.

Thank you to those who have actively campaigned for LGBTQ+ rights: written to politicians; called them; and used your voice in the survey.

Thank you to the counsellors/ psychologists who dedicated much of the last few months listening to and supporting LGBTQ+ people who were distressed.

Thank you to those who comforted LGBTQ+ friends and family. It hasn’t been an easy process, (in fact, at times for many, it’s been downright hard!). Thank you to those who have offered a shoulder to cry on when needed.

Thank you to the religious leaders who have called for compassion toward the LGBTQ+ community and have aimed to build bridges between, what have been warring factions. Thank you to those who joined campaigns like Equal Voices, and called for healing and reconciliation between the Church and the LGBTQ+ community.

Thank you to older LGBTQ+ people. like Anthony. Venn – Brown and Magda Szubanski, who have offered their advice and advocacy to younger LGBTQ+ people. Also, thank you to other LGBTQ+ people who have been willing to be open about their own struggles, but pushing forward and fighting for what you want. You have been so brave and strong!

Finally, I’d like to thank media personalities for standing by us. Thanks to Mamamia founder Mia Freedman and other staff for being an endless advocate for LGBTQ+ people. Thank you for giving LGBTQ+ people and their families a voice. You don’t know how much that means to us.

Thank you to Sky News’ Paul Murray and Patricia Karvelas for also being outspoken supporters for same – sex marriage. Thank you also, for being, sadly the few, who have consistently called out and condemned abuses from both sides of the debate.

Who would you like to thank for supporting you or the LGBTQ+ community more broadly during this debate?

Anti – discrimination exemptions: a slippery slope?

The issue of anti – discrimination is heating up in the same – sex marriage debate here in Australia. This week, Andrew Bolt interviewed owner of Arlene’s Flowers, Barronelle Stutzman, a florist who was sued for not making flower arrangemwnts for a same – sex wedding. From what I heard of the case, the case turned pretty callous, with Stutzman receiving death threats. That is horribly wrong. It’s disgusting and whoever sent threats to her should have the law book thrown at them.

Former florist Baronelle Stutzman on The Bolt Report
Former florist Baronelle Stutzman war s Australia that they face similar issues if same – sex marriage gets up here

I was sympathetic to cases like Stutzman. It was one of the reasons why I opposed same – sex marriage for a while.

However, what I worry about — and what Stutzman nor Bolt discussed, is what has happened since then, especially since Trump took office.

This has gone beyond caterers and florists. Last year, Tennessee Governor, Bill Haslain, signed a bill that allowed mental health workers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ clients for religious reasons.

A year earlier, a pediatrician in Michigan refused to treat a baby girl because she was being raised by a married lesbian couple.  Luckily another pediatrician was available.

Then, there was the whole “Bathroom Bill” debacle in North Carolina, which prohibited trans people to use the bathroom that coincides with their gender identity. Former ADF officer, Cate McGregor put it quite bluntly on ABC’s The Drum, saying that it was putting trans people at risk of violence.

 

If the issue on same – sex marriage exemptions stayed solely on that, I would be fine with it. i’ve read that even some LGBTQ+ people have rallied behind Stutzman. But what I’ve noted above concerns me.

There’s another issue, too; what if cases like the pediatrician happens in a rural area? Rural areas are always crying out for more GPs, nurses, etc, but they’re not always easy to come by. So what’s an LGBTQ+ person to do if the only doctor they have access to wants to discriminate against them because of who they are? What if an LGBTQ+ person needs mental health assistance and the only psychologist/ counsellor available doesn’t want to treat them because lf ‘conscience objection’?

This has gone beyond cakes and flowers and marriage. This is about whether LGBTQ+ people should be able to access services that they need.

I think there is a possibility that ‘religious’ or ‘conscientious objections’ loopholes in anti – discrimination laws (beyond religious leaders and celebrants) can be widened, widened and widened to the point where LGBTQ+ people, especially in rural areas, are denied essential services, leaving them vulnerable to poor health outcomes.

While I sympathise to a degree toward those who feel targeted, a part of me wants to tell objectors to suck it up. If you own a business, you serve the public. That includes LGBTQ+ couples. And LGBTQ+ people should NOT be refused essential services!

What to you think of the Baronelle Stutzman case? Do you think businesses should be able to refuse services to people, including for certain events (weddibg of a same – sex couple)? What do you think about health workers discriminating against LGBTQ+ people and their families? Should that be allowed?

Let me know what you think in the comments. Sorry for the amount of questions. Just so much I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on. You don’t have to answer all the questions.  Just please let mw know what you think.

 

 

Q & A same – sex marriage debate exposed the weakness of the “No”campaign

Screenshot of Monday's Q and A same - sex marriage debate featureing Magda Szubanski, Karina Okotel, Anglican archbishop Glenn Davies and Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, Frank Brennan
While the debate on ABC’s Q & A was respectful, it exposed the weakness of the “No” case.

I always get nervous when people say that the “Yes” voters will win same – sex marriage. Remember how many people said that Trump couldn’t be come US President? Or that the UK would not leave the EU? I think we’ll just have to wait for the result on the fifteenth of next month.

ABC’s Q and A had a episode dedicated to the same – sex marriage debate on Monday. I want to commend everyone who was a part of it. It was respectful. I thought the host, Tony Jones was respectful, too. He only interrupted if a panelist was going off topic or someone needed to get to the point.

I thought that a number of answers were well done. I was particularly impressed at how Jesuit and human rights lawyer, Fr. Frank Brennan answered the question on the sacrament of marriage (as is stated in Catholicism), and its separation from civil marriage. To be frank, I think many progressive Christians/ Catholics tend to trip on these sort of questions.

The “No” campaigners, Karina Okotel and, to a lesser extent, Anglican’s Glenn Davis didn’t do the “No” much justice. They proved how weak the “No” campaign is.

To be clear, I don’t want to be disrespectful. I have friends and family who have voted “no” in the postal vote and feel strongly about it. This is in no way a reflection of these people as individuals. I am purely basing my observation on the overall campaign and the Q and A episode.

With all that out of the way, here goes…

The “No” campaign is weaker than water.

The argument about children proved to be a big downfall for both Okotel and Davis. Karina Okotel said that one of the reasons why she opposed same – sex marriage was because children were best raised by a mother and father (common argument). However, when being confronted with a young man who was raised by two lesbians and a pediatrician arguing that children of same – sex couples are well adjusted, Okotel back pedaled on her original claim. Most studies on same – sex parenting that The Conversation referred to suggest that it’s not the gender of the parents that have the big impact, but rather stability of the family.

The “No” campaign’s frequently claim that freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right for parents (not same – sex parents apparently /sarc) to have control over what is taught to their children will be affected. This is the argument that the ‘Coalition for Marriage” currently use in their advertisements.

To back their campaign, they have a Canadian father of two, Steve Tourloukis. He argues that since same – sex marriage was legalised in Canada back in 2005, his children were forced to “celebrate homosexuality.

Tourloukis did lose a Supreme Court case last year when he tried to sue his children’s school. But it wasn’t because he personally opposed homosexuality. Tourloukis was demanding that his children’s public school give him adequate notice when “false teachings” were going to be taught. What was perceived as “false teachings” went beyond same – sex relationships (although that was one). It extended to “environmental worship”, (I’m guessing that’s things like climate change, etc), moral relativism and sex education, as well as homosexuality and transgender-ism. After six years, Justice Robert B. Reid ruled against Tourloukis, stating the following reason:

[The public education system] by definition, provide education to the broadest possible cross-section of the population. To the extent that the concern about “false teachings” outweighs other advantages of the public school system, the applicant may need to seek other alternatives.

So, Tourloukis didn’t lose the case simply because he didn’t want his children to ‘celebrate homosexuality’, (can anyone tell me exactly what that means? Dancing to ABBA in a rainbow wig?), it was because he demanded that the public education system to change to fit his personal religious beliefs. I can understand why, in Canada or anywhere in the West, that those sort of demands wouldn’t be granted. The public education system has to include everyone, including those who’s parents aren’t conservative Christian, Greek Orthodox, etc.

Frankly, I’m not completely convinced that the “Yes” vote will win next month. I think a lot of damage has been done because of the actions of some on the far left, so – called LGBTQ+ ‘allies’. But the “No” camp have been getting quite desperate. It’s starting to become more and more obvious that they don’t have a convincing argument against legalising same – sex marriage in Australia.

 

We will rise: Episode of Gaycation offers LGBTQ+ people hope

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Despite fear about the win of Trump last year, the LGBTQ+ people and their allies’ unity was touching and something Australian LGBTQ+ people can take strength from.

I won’t lie, the last few months haven’t been easy for many in the Australian LGBTQ+ community. That includes me. I’ve been quite strong and have offered my own support to LGBTQ+ family and friends but on and off for the past couple of weeks, it’s finally got me. Old insecurities and worries about how others viewed me came back. And I’m not even in a same – sex relationship. I feel for those who are.

On Wednesday, I saw the end of a repeat of Gaycation: United We stand  on SBS Viceland. It was about the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s 2016 election win. Many people were worried about the President’s Cabinet and their links with organisations and political parties that had been opposed to LGBTQ+ rights, including Vice President, Mike Pence, who was responsible for the Religion Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana, which permitted businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people on the grounds of personal belief. (Apparently, he did backpedal in legalising discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, despite anger from conservatives). There was also worry about the rights of trans people and their ability to access medical care.

While the backdrop of the documentary was quite grim, the end of the documentary was surprisingly uplifting. It gave me hope for Australia in the postal vote process. I took strength from the fact that the LGBTQ+ community and allies were determined to stand together and not allow things to backslide to where they’d been in the past. They were not going to let those with homophobic or trans – phobic views win. Caucasian and people of colour were willing to stand together. They seemed to believe in the cause and their right to, not just exist, but live freely, love and express their gender that they saw fit.

It was heartening to see parents of LGBTQ+ people, including co – host Ian Daniel’s father, who were willing to stand by their children and fight for them. I truly think that these people don’t get enough credit. They are such a great source of love and strength. You have seen the same thing with the postal vote process. I’ve been heartened at the number of straight people; including parents and grandparents, who are willing to have their LGBTQ+ children’s and grandchildren’s back.  If you are a parent, friend, family member, educator, who’s been a shoulder for LGBTQ+ family or friends to cry on, on behalf of members of the LGBTQ+ community, can I just say, thank you. You’re love, support and contribution in our lives will never be forgotten. To LGBTQ+ people, please, give these people in your lives a massive hug! They deserve it.

Can I please implore Australian LGBTQ+ people to take heart. It will be OK. If we can stick together, we can get through this and more (if the US is anything to go by, this won’t be the last fight).

If we keep going, we will win this. We will gain the right to love, to be safe and express our gender authentically. To quote Swedish melodic death metal band Arch Enemy: We Will Rise. To quote them again: “United we stand!”