Archive for the ‘Kind of Political’ Category

Today is World Toilet Day…

November 19, 2014

Toilet_SignDid you know 19th of November is World Toilet Day, and no I am not joking, but trust me there is a serious message behind this auspicious day. World Toilet Day is a day to take action. It is a day to raise awareness about all people who do not have access to a toilet and hence this blog post from me.

Of the world’s seven billion people, 2.5 billion people do not have access to a clean and safe toilet (that is about 37% of the world’s population). 1 billion people still defecate in the open. Women and girls risk rape and abuse because they have no toilet that offers privacy. Did you know more people in the world have a mobile phone than have access to a clean and safe toilet?

This year UN Water have taken up the theme of ‘Equality and Dignity’, and have a campaign that is seeking to inspire action to end open defecation and put spotlight on how access to improved sanitation leads to a reduction in assault and violence on women and girls. See a bit more about it here.

Water.org also campaign on this issue and many others related to the effect of not having access to clean water throughout the year, their website is well worth a visit.

It was Jim Sim (aka “Mr. Toilet”), who founded the World Toilet Organization and the annual World Toilet Day back in 2001. He was named a TIME Hero of the Environment in 2008, and alas he died in 2009. He was described as “frank and entertaining” when it came to discussing the need for better sanitation. As he once said “No invention has saved more lives than a toilet. More than 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated, polluting rivers, lakes and coastal areas”, think about this next time you sit on a loo….

Study highlights risk of suicide among young people who are gender diverse, trans, and intersex

October 17, 2014

If you have seen the films Boys Don’t Cry, Skin I Live In or Transamerica you might think life for gender diverse and trans (an umbrella term which incorporates a variety of trans identities), individuals is a kind of hell on earth, and for some it certainly can be. Little is actually known about the mental health needs of gender diverse, trans, and intersex, young people in Australia which is why researchers at La Trobe University recently conducted a study called From Blues to Rainbows.

This study spoke to gender diverse, trans, and intersex young people aged 14-25 years old. The results found that half of the young people surveyed were diagnosed with depression and two thirds had experienced verbal abuse, a more worrying fact is that almost all of the participants had experienced abuse because of their gender diversity. This ranged from verbal threats to physical violence. Alas for many these threats and eventuated into actual physical abuse, with one fifth reporting this. Some of you will also know that I have written about the devastating effects suicide can have on friends and family, and what I found most shocking in the results is that 90% had thought about suicide in response to the physical abuse they had experienced.

The report also found:

  • 66% of participants had seen a health professional for their mental health in the past year
  • 38% had suicidal thoughts and a quarter had spoken to a medical professional about it
  • One in three did not feel supported by their family and suffered much higher rates of stress, suicide and depression
  • 45% were diagnosed with anxiety compared with an average 25% of the population

Encouragingly the report also emphasized that parental, peer and school support can make a enormous and constructive impact to their wellbeing.

With 66% of this at risk group visiting health professionals it is important that they receive guidance on how best to deal with these and what language to use, given the negative impact the use of incorrect pronouns to address them can have, they are there for help and understanding to getting it right at the very start is key. Many of these young people are subjected to embarrassing questions or simply have their gender dysphoria as a teenage fancy that they will grow out of.

This of course a complex issue but one that needs to be better addressed so that these vulnerable young people get all the support and help they need to live the full and happy lives we all want to live.

Scotland – to be or not to be, that is the question…..

September 17, 2014

Scotland-Countries-Flag-Wallpaper Both sides in the Scottish referendum debate are making their final pitch to voters on the last day of campaigning and from what I have seen they have both ratcheted up the rhetoric in the last few days, but then there is a hell of a lot at stake. Is the Yes vote wins does it mean Great Britain will be a little less great!? And what might it mean to peoples sense on ‘nationality’, will those that think of themselves as British be any less British if the nation itself is decreased? Actually if the Union loses Scotland it will lose 32% of its landmass and say goodbye to 8% of its population.
I have been incredibly engrossed by the debate and am desperate to know what my friends who can vote will vote. I feel oddly engaged in a way that surprises me, I feel like I ought to have some kind of a say, or at least a right to an opinion, but am I Scottish? Well what am I is a good question? One that has come up among my friends and I on several occasions.
I was born in England, but spent some of my early years living in Africa, I have a Scottish surname, my grandfather on my father’s side was very much a Scott but I live in Australia and am now an Australian citizenship, and I have two boys who are both Australian and British (although I have not yet sorted their passport – for either country). I feel a strong connection with my Scottish roots even though I have never lived there and hardly know my oh so Scottish grandfather, so am I entitled to a voice on this matter or not? I guess this blog post is just that so I have already answered that question.
If I were allowed to vote I am not sure what I would do, much like the latest polls suggest the results remain too close to call, with a slender lead for a “No” vote, I think I am leaning (just) to a no myself, but the Yes could still swing.
Alex Salmond, First Minister for Scotland, says the 300-year-old Union is no longer “fit for purpose” that seems a bit harsh to be me, it is a political union that has stood since 1707, ok I admit not always a smooth ride, but the union itself has evolved a hell of a lot over that time and especially of late. He also said recently “The people who for a few precious hours during polling day hold sovereignty, power, authority in their hands. It’s the greatest most empowering moment any of us will ever have. Scotland’s future – our country in our hands.” Those are powerful words which pack a real emotional punch and I would challenge any eligible voter not to feel the weight of these words.

Student welfare in our schools should not be the domain of anti-gay religious groups….

May 27, 2014

Let me start this post by saying I am sure many of the chaplains involved in the Chaplaincy Programs in Australian schools do fantastic work, but money spent by the government, raised by all tax payers regardless of their religion, race, sexuality etc, should not be used for funding for particular religious groups to take the place of qualified mental health professionals or social workers in schools where ALL our children go, not just those of Christians.

There were many cuts in the budget this year that irked many of us, but some of the biggest were to health and education costs, if all goes to plan for the Government they will save $80 billion over 10 years by withdrawing the funding from the states that it provides for services in these two areas.

In terms of education, Tony Abbott’s government will not continue with the fifth year of Labor’s Gonski School funding reforms. This means that rather than increasing school funding by 4.7%, the Abbott government will increase school funding in line with inflation instead. What this means in reality in that they will spend about $130 million less on schools in 2017-18 than the previous government promised.

On top of this there are fundamental changes to University funding and student loans, referred to by Treasurer Joe Hockey in his budget speech as “once-in-a-generation reforms, the government will help build a sector that is more diverse, more innovative and more responsive to student needs”

So while we are on the subject of diversity in the education sector, and being more responsive to what students need, relative to other cuts made, how on earth does the government justify the continued federal funding of the Chaplaincy Programs in Australian schools?

Some of the organisations in the program have clear connections to homophobic campaigning and yet they will continue to benefit from the government funding. The proposed budget has allocated nearly $250million to this program over four years; it offers schools up to $24,000 per year to pay for a chaplain approximately two days a week.

ACCESS Ministries is one of the key providers of chaplains, providing approximately 330 schools in Victoria with “Special Religious Instructors”, yet it has been revealed that they have distributed homophobic materials that the Victorian Education Department’s own investigation concluded was “inappropriate and offensive”.

Rob Ward who is General Manager of Development and Communications at ACCESS Ministries, and the former Victorian State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby,  has campaigned against same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption and is on record as not wanting non-heterosexual orientations as being seen as ‘normal’.  When the “Fair go, sport!” program, an initiative aimed at increasing awareness of sexual and gender diversity in sport, was launched he said “The suggestion that the aim is to have the sexual orientation of gay, lesbian and transgender sportspeople…so public that it’s normal, so people don’t think about it is very troubling.”

In addition, Darren McMahon the Director and Presenter of Your Dream Incorporated in Sydney that runs chaplaincy programs through NSW, has significant ties to Hillsong Church, which has had a contentious relationship with the gay community regarding their involvement with the Mercy Ministries and the Living Waters Australia, which both ran ex-gay and conversion camps.

It is a documented fact that LGBTI youth have higher rates of suicide and depression than their heterosexual counterparts and as Jacqui Tomlins, a founding member of the Australian Equality Party, has said “Young people,  especially those who might be questioning their sexuality or sexual identity, need access to good, non-judgemental counsellors who can provide advice and guidance that is not based on any religious foundation”, yet it is via the Chaplaincy Program that these children would be dealt with.

To make matter worse the Abbott Government has changed the conditions to prevent School Principals from being able to elect a secular student welfare worker instead of a chaplain, non-religious student welfare workers could get access to funding under the previous Labor Government.

So just how Mr Hockey does the government propose to ensure we build a sector that is more diverse, more innovative and more responsive to student needs with this program?

Not only was I annoyed enough to write this blog post but I also signed this petition: https://www.allout.org/en/actions/australia-budget-thanks

Remembering Lex Watson

May 8, 2014

Lex Watson who passed away this week was the first president of the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) and a Co-founder of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP), in addition to being the founder of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, in short he was one of the most important gay rights activists in Australia.

We forget how things have changed over the past few decades and the fact that we have so many rights not afforded us in the past is in no small part down to the work Lex and others like him did on our behalf. He played an important role in the foundation of many of the LGBT rights groups in New South Wales. In 1970 he was one of the first gay people to advocate openly for their rights on Australian television, a very brave act indeed back then, to many LGBT people in their teens, twenties or even 30’s just how brave and pioneering an act this was would be hard to comprehend in a world where an openly gay person won Big Brother in 2012.

Homosexuality was legalized in New South Wales in 1984, 14 years after the start-up of CAMP, and in that time activists like Lex were at the forefront of the fight for equality and endured more than most on our behalf to ensure our rights were recognised. For example in 1976 whilst on a current affairs program on ABC Lex was pelted with human excrement during a debate, his response to this act…. was to point out that that was precisely the kind of persecution that homosexuals had to put up with, touché .

In his later years Lex  served as the President of Sydney’s Pride History Group, Lex Watson is part of our history, he was a pioneer for the LGBT community and one I hope history never forgets.

RIP Sir David Paradine Frost

September 2, 2013

davidFrom my own county, David Frost was born in Tenterden Kent, in 1939, so a bit before me. I spent a very unhappy year living in Gillingham and went to hear him speak at the local grammar school which he attended as a child before going on to Cambridge University. I can’t really remember what the talk was about now (it was more than 20 years ago) but I do remember that listening to him talk made me want to do something with my life other than live in a bedsit and work in McDonald’s which was what I was doing at the time.

Back then I knew him primarily as the host on Through the Keyhole, and still recall his voice saying “who lives in a house like this”, his co-host was Loyd Grossman who went on to sell condiments!!!

Anyway, what I did not know at the time was that he had been such a successful journalist and TV producer (he was one of the original founders and owner of London Weekend Television). In 1977, he did the The Nixon Interviews, a series of five 90-minute interviews with former US President Richard Nixon. Nixon was paid $600,000 plus a share of the profits for the interviews, which Frost funded himself after the US television networks refused to do so calling them “chequebook journalism” (og how things have changed).

Frost was also the only person to have interviewed all eight British prime ministers serving between 1964 and 2010 (Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, James Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron) and all seven US presidents in office between 1969 and 2008 (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush).

And after the 1979 Iranian Revolution Frost was the last person to interview Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

These are but a handful of his achievements, sad to see such an accomplished talent come to an end.

Remembering those that have fallen on ANZAC Day

April 24, 2013

ImageOk, yesterday I wrote about Saint George’s Day but being a citizen of both the UK and Australia I felt I could not let ANZAC Day pass unmentioned. For those of you not aware tomorrow (25th April) is Anzac Day, it is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, and a public holiday in Australia, unlike Saint George’s Day in England. It started as a day to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire (now modern day Turkey) during World War I. However, today it more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in all military operations for their countries.

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, Winston Churchill’s grand plan was that they were to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The overall objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was an ally of Germany during the war. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk, who went on to become Turkey’s first President, bot more on him later). What had been planned as a daring strike to knock the Ottomans out of the war quickly became a deadlock, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties.

The Dawn Service on ANZAC Day has become a major tradition, and the first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927. Thousands of Australians make a pilgrimage to the site of the battle in Turkey every year for the dawn service held there. The name “ANZAC Cove” was officially recognised by the Turkish government on Anzac Day in 1985. In 1934, Kemal Atatürk delivered the following words to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. This was later inscribed on a monolith at Ari Burnu Cemetery (ANZAC Beach) which was unveiled in 1985. The words also appear on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial in Canberra:

“Those heroes that shed their blood

And lost their lives.

You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies

And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side

Here in this country of ours.

You, the mothers,

Who sent their sons from far away countries

Wipe away your tears,

Your sons are now lying in our bosom

And are in peace

After having lost their lives on this land they have

Become our sons as well.”

Why I am wearing my England top today…..

April 23, 2013

ImageSaint George’s Day is the feast day of Saint George, and although I am wearing my England football top in honour of the day it is actually not just a day for the English. It is celebrated by various Christian churches and by the several nations of which Saint George is the patron saint. Countries that celebrate St George’s Day include England, Canada, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia.

Saint George’s Day is celebrated on 23 April, the traditionally accepted date of Saint George’s death in AD 303. By coincidence it is also my Uncle’s birthday (Happy birthday Uncle Clive). The earliest documented mention of St George in England comes from the venerable Bede (c. 673–735). He is also mentioned in ninth-century liturgy used at Durham Cathedral.  The will of Alfred the Great is said to refer to the saint, in a reference to the church of Fordington, Dorset. One of my sons has Alfred as a middle name, but this is just a happy coincidence.

In 1222 The Synod of Oxford declared St. George’s Day a feast day in the kingdom of England and  Edward III (1327–1377) put his Order of the Garter (founded c. 1348) under the banner of St. George. This order is still the foremost order of knighthood in England and St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the order. The badge of the Order shows Saint George on horseback slaying the dragon.

In his play Henry V, William Shakespeare famously invokes the Saint prior to the battle of Agincourt (1415) “Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

St George’s Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century. The Cross of St George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland and later by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown by the Mayflower when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts. My relatives own Mayflower Engineering in Sheffield, that has the Mayflower ship as its logo, another happy coincidence.

The tradition of celebration St George’s day had waned by the end of the 18th century after the union of England and Scotland. In recent years the popularity of St George’s Day appears to be increasing, slowly but surely. The Conservative MP, Andrew Rosindell, has raised the issues in the House of Commons to make St George’s Day a public holiday and Mayor of London Boris Johnson encourages the celebration of St George’s Day.

A traditional custom on St George’s day was to wear a red rose in one’s lapel, however I could not find one this morning when getting dressed, so put my England football top on instead. Enjoy the day.

Have you used a loo today?

November 21, 2012

Ok, so I know you might well have missed it but 19th of November was World Toilet Day, and no I am not joking, but trust me there is a serious message behind this auspicious day.

Approximately 2.5 billion people do not have access to a clean and safe toilet, to put that in some perspective that is 37% of the world’s population.  Sanitation would make the lives of these 2.5 billion people safer and healthier, which this issue is so important.

On the day the Gates Foundation tweeted, “The annual gain in economic productivity if everyone had a toilet is $225B”. I’m not sure how they work that out, but it is an impressive figure. The Gates are not the only ones who see the importance of this issue, Matt Damon, co-founder of Water.org, has pointed out that “Six billion people have cell phones, but only 4.5 billion have access to improved sanitation”.

It was Jim Sim (aka “Mr. Toilet”), who founded the World Toilet Organization and the annual World Toilet Day back in 2001. He was named a TIME Hero of the Environment in 2008, and alas he died in 2009. He was described as “frank and entertaining” when it came to discussing the need for better sanitation. As he once said “No invention has saved more lives than a toilet. More than 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated, polluting rivers, lakes and coastal areas”, think about this next time you sit on a loo….

Well done The Greens and Mr Greenwich

November 5, 2012

Ok I know the Sydney by-election was almost a couple of weeks ago, but I thought it still worth jotting down some interested facts about it….

One thing that caught my eye was how well The Greens did given the press had written them off before hand as having peaked and were in decline in terms of electoral support. They actually increased their primary vote to 17.7% which is the best primary vote that they have ever achieved in Sydney. This represents a 5% swing in favour of them from the 2011 election results, so well done The Greens. In places such as St Barnabas’ Broadway, Ultimo Public and St Peters’ Surry Hills, they enjoyed swings of up to 15%.

Although Cover Moore was no longer able to hold the seat, she still played a large role in the by-election having endorsed and then actively campaigned for the independent candidate Alex Greenwich. And boy did he do well. Mr Greenwich’s vote was just short of 50%. Take into account the fact that only once did Clover Moore’s first preference vote pass 40%, however she had polled above 36% at every election since 1991, then this result for Mr Greenwich can also be seen as a clear rebuke by the electorate for the O’Farrell government’s action to push Clover out of her seat in the first place, oh they got 30% of the vote a swing away from them of circa 5%.

Political Parties chasing the Pink Vote

August 28, 2012

I know I have talked about brands targeting the Pink Dollar before https://macarthursmutterings.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/big-brands-wise-up-and-target-the-lgbt-community/ when I looked at Coca-Cola and Grey Goose supporting the Winter Party Festival (WPF) in the US and Mardi Gras here in Australia being supported by Virgin Australia, ANZ, Google and Finlandia Vodka, for example.

Well this time I want to talk about Political Parties chasing the Pink Vote. We have some elections coming up in Sydney which sees the  political fight for dominance of Sydney Council being taken to the LGBT Community, why is that?

Well is it one of the few electorates in Australia where the ‘pink vote’ can and does make a difference. If you have spent much time in places like Darlinghurst and Surry Hills you will know that LGBT individuals are both an important and integral part of these communities, and their voice not only matters but is worth listening to.

With this in mind, and with elections just around the corner, the council recently announced some new funding, if all goes to plan Mardi Gras would get $400,000 in funding over the next two years. This might sound like a lot, but a conservative estimate of the average number of spectators a year is 300,000. It is estimated that MG delivers an annual economic impact of $29 million to Sydney and NSW. This is the direct result of international and interstate visitors travelling specifically for Mardi Gras events, so $400,000 is not all that much really, they could be doing more.

Labor’s candidate for the position of Lord Mayor has claimed a Labor run Town Hall would commit $3.2 million to MG and Aids Council of NSW (ACON) over four years, no small sum. And apparently a future Liberal Government will work with MG to ensure “it grows as one of Sydney’s most important cultural and social events and as a major tourism driver for the state”, although I am unaware of any actual sum of commitment in dollar terms.

Don’t get me wrong, all this ‘possible’ support and funding is crucial and long overdue, but LGBT voters don’t just think about how the parties support them at election time only (ok for some that may be true). Like any constituent they think about how political parties represent then (or don’t) most of the year and as such maybe those who want to win, and stay in power, in Sydney ought to pay more heed to the Pink Vote all year round and not just at election time.

This posting is inspired by the PACT campaign…

December 14, 2011

My memories of childhood are often focused on the time we spent living in a little town called Secunda, which is set amidst the coalfields of what was the Eastern Transvaal, which is now the Mpumalanga province in South Africa.  We lived at number 12 Pannevis Street and I went to Highveld Ridge School. The years we spent there are probably some of my happiest memories of childhood and being a family together. Back then my brother and sister were my very best of friends and my father was home more than he was away and my mother was the centre of my world.

My father worked at the Sasol refinery (which is where most men in the town worked) and I remember at night it would glisten on the horizon all ablaze in light, it looked so magical.

Men drove bakkies (a van), we wore takkies (not trainers) and had a braai (BBQ) at the weekend.

We had a huge garden (well to a child it seemed huge) and playing outdoors was the norm. The Baker family lived close by, a Scottish family with four girls; I think my brother and I were both in love with the eldest Lisa (she and I became pen pals after we both moved away).

There was no cinema in the town back then but there was a Drive In which we used to go to occasionally. It would get cold in the evenings so us three kids would all huddle on the back seat under blankets and more often than not fall asleep before the movie ended.

There were some fields close to our house that we used to play in for hours with other kids and our dog Simba would love to role in the mud and dung of wild animals coming home pleased as punch and stinking up the whole house.

Life seemed simpler then and my adulthood so far away, now it’s my childhood that seems so far away and although life is a little less simple it is far richer for having had the experiences I did back then, and for that I thank my parents.

This post is part of a series inspired by the Prevent Abuse of Children Today (PACT) campaign, hosted by Stepping Stones Nigeria. Please add your name to the PACT petition to prevent abuse of innocent children in the Niger Delta and visit the site to find out more: www.makeapact.org

If New York can do it…

July 19, 2011

Ok, I know I have written about this subject before, but in response to New York having made same-sex marriage legal, I just felt I needed to make further comment. I mean, come on –  if New York State can do it, then surely Australia can as well. Now I know that might sound odd, because after all NY is so cool, hip and liberal, so of course it passed there. Well actually, the State of New York is not all that liberal. When you take into account the rather ‘traditional’ country areas, it’s actually a tad right. More importantly, it has a very influential Catholic Church and they (along with the powerful political conservatives) carry much influence. So as you can see, some striking similarity with Australia. Oh and not only that, but the issue of marriage equality is in the hands of these legislators, not judges, which is the same as Australia (more’s the pity).

What is encouraging, and something I absolutely agree with, is that in New York they rejected having a “compromise” in that they rejected civil unions and went straight for marriage. Several studies have now clearly demonstrated that civil union schemes are unsuccessful in providing same-sex couples with full social recognition (and in some places legal recognition). The time for “intermediary steps” to full equality is in the past and same-sex marriage should be the focus for debate here in Australia. Those at a Federal level who offer civil unions in the hope that this will end the debate, are thankfully mistaken.

As I have touched on before, religious groups make a big song and dance about the issue and do a great job of muddying the waters, trying to make it a ‘religious’ debate rather than one of ‘legal equality’.  One of the main obstacles to reform in NY was the ultimatum from religious organisations for legal immunity if they refused to marry same-sex couples, refused services at faith-based child and welfare agencies, or even refused to rent them venues for wedding receptions. However, these exemptions already exist in Australian law, NOT that I agree with them, particularly if the organisations in question are getting tax-payer funding, which most do but that is a whole other matter…. . No religious celebrant in Australia can be forced to marry someone against their wishes. Churches have exemptions under marital status in federal law and sexual orientation in state law. So as far as I can see, these organizations already have all the exemptions they require, so butt out will you.

If we call it something different then it means something different

April 6, 2011

I have been asked a few times lately what my point of view is on same sex marriage, by both straight and gay friends As part of the conversations I had, I realised that many people have what I think of as a ‘skewed’ idea of what marriage is all about.

Now why do I say that? Well it is not that I mean they have ideas about how a marriage might or might not work. The key thing that almost everyone seems to think is that ‘marriage’ is a religious act. Now even my ‘non-religious’ friends (some who did not get married in a church themselves) believe that the act of marriage is a religious thing!

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought a ‘marriage’ was in fact a ‘legal’ act, not a religious one. Yes, a lot of people choose to get married within a religious setting, such as in a church, but ultimately they sign a legal document that then legalises their wedding… in fact without this you are not really married in the eyes of the law.

Also a key point is that heterosexual couples are allowed to ‘get married’ in non-religious places, such as a garden, on a beach or even in a pub – where is the religion in that!? And yet they can still call it a ‘marriage’.

It is not good enough to say “but marriage is a religious act” as an argument, because that is not the entire truth, and besides non-religious heterosexuals being allowed to get married in a church simply makes a mockery of that argument.

I do agree however, that if the church does not want to allow same-sex marriages in their churches, then so be it, but they do not ‘own’ the copyright of marriage. I fundamentally believe that same-sex- partners should be allowed to get ‘married’ (be it in a garden, on a beach or in a pub) and call it just that. Marriage. 

A ‘civil-partnership’ is not the same. If we call it something different, then it means something different. People know what the act of marriage means, what being married bestows on a relationship and the statement a couple make to their friends and family when they ‘get married’. We all know the importance of this. And no it is not the same when a couple make a civil declaration, it does not have the same gravitas and it certainly is not seen as ‘equal’ to a marriage by most people.

Until I can say “this is my husband” rather than “this is my civil partner” there will always be a disparate treatment and acceptance of same-sex partnerships.

And if R is reading this…. no I am not wanting to get married.

In defence of Penny Wong

July 30, 2010

Betrayed Wong puts politics before community…. screams the front page of the Sydney Star Observer (SSO). With such a bold statement I was sure there would be journalistic evidence to back this up, or at least a balanced argument. However having read the article it seems to me more of a personal attack on Penny Wong fuelled by dislike rather than biased journalism.

The supposed betrayal was her failure to openly disagree with the Government’s current stand against gay marriage.

As far as I am aware Penny Wong never expressed her ‘personal’ views, she was talking about her view on the ‘position of the party’ lets not forget she is a Government Minister and as such needs to publicly support Government policy to retain her post. Her personal views may well be discussed in private and I have no doubt they have been expressed in Cabinet, but like all Ministers her job is to demonstrate unity and support the Party Policy. The issue here is, does she speak out and therefore lose her ability to influence the future debate from within cabinet or does she work from the inside.

Not speaking out does not mean she cannot work from within the party to help change policy towards same-sex couples and indeed she, along with many others, in the ALP continue to argue in caucus, cabinet and at party conferences for change. Lets not forget the Labour Government have introduced and delivered 85 legislative changes to address inequality for same-sex couples over the last three years. These changes come about because of people like Penny, change takes time, patients and negotiation.

I am sure that in time we will have marriage for same sex couples and I am sure that our best chance of getting that change is via an ALP Government, but it will take us a lot longer to get there if as a “community” we hound out of office those that are best placed to help us achieve this aim.

I know Penny Wong is a lesbian, but for the community to see her as a lesbian first and foremost is in my view hypocritical and in itself discrimination. We cry out not to be ‘defined’ or ‘labelled’ simply by our sexuality, and indeed my homosexuality is just part of who I am it is not what defines me completely. Penny Wong was not given a mandate to “champion gay marriage” nor did she seek election to do so, therefore she should not be completely judged for failing to publicly take on the task.