Monthly Archives: November 2009

Results from the internet filter: we can’t see them, but the Australian Christian Lobby is allowed a peek

What do you do when you’ve committed to a dog of a policy and the results of your trial – your trial without criteria for success – are so bad it’s going to be a serious struggle to pretend otherwise? You get the lobbyists you’re doing it for in early, and remind them that you’re in it together. And you give them a head start on everyone else.

You’d almost feel sorry for him – if Conroy weren’t trying to destroy our access to the internet for no good reason.

Campaigning against your own oppression isn’t your sole responsibility, sure – but it’s a good idea

I’ll admit to having been a bit surprised on Saturday by the fact that many of the gay people I know were not at the equality rally.

I guess I expected that where a person might turn a blind eye to having rights taken away from other people, it would be hard for them to miss discrimination where they were the victim.

Apparently not.

Just because a person is gay, of course, doesn’t mean that they’ve got some kind of special responsibility to other gay people who do want to get married – any more than I, as a straight person, have a responsibility to the anti-marriage crowd that claim, ludicrously, to represent us.

But I am surprised by the short-sightedness of those gay people who don’t personally want to get married who seem to think the issue therefore doesn’t affect them. Ignoring that many people, gay or straight – especially men – in their twenties don’t particularly intend to get married either, and subsequently change their minds when they meet that special person, the fact is that the discrimination in the Marriage Act sends a very, very clear message about all gay people: that they and their relationships are second-rate. That’s the whole reason the bigotry side objects to equality in the law – that it would “send the message” that gay relationships are as worthy as heterosexual relationships. That being gay is not a “disability” or a “problem” that needs to be solved, but as valuable and legitimate as any other part of the human experience.

How could any gay person with the slightest bit of self-respect not want that message sent? How could any gay person with the slightest bit of self-respect not object to being deliberately denied rights they would enjoy if they were heterosexual – whether they intend to exercise them or not? It’s not about whether you want to get married; it’s about whether you think the law should treat you as a second-class citizen.

I know there was a rally just over three months ago, and it would be tempting to ask how many of these things anyone could expect an ordinary person to go to. I know that there’s a sense of futility about the whole issue, that nothing will change while we are governed by two major parties both of which believe in discrimination against gay people. But with the majority of voters now supporting equality, it’s closer than ever. It’s just a matter of when – and of how many people will suffer in the meantime. With a great deal of effort, some momentum has been achieved – it would be a shame to let it dissipate.

Giving up an hour or so every couple of months to point out to those in power who would dare to deny it that you’re as valuable a human being as anyone else, and are pissed off that they would dare to suggest otherwise, doesn’t seem like a bad idea. I’ll be happy to join you.

ELSEWHERE: Slacktivist looks at the “Manhattan Declaration”, in which older US evangelical conservatives try to enforce on younger Christians their view that the “three most important issues” for christians should be abortion, homosexuality and “religious freedom”.

The document itself is an appalling mix of lies, misrepresentations and cynical viciousness, which might well deserve a post on its own fairly shortly. It’s a serious indictment on the signers, and those Christians who believe that their religion is primarily about what Jesus Christ taught have a responsibility to respond before they’re damned by association.

Warming hearts, wherever they go

If it snowing around Al Gore is “the Gore effect“, then is a record month of heat when the Liberals are tearing themselves to pieces over the issue of an ETS “the Liberal Party effect”? Would wherever the deniers go suddenly experience unprecedented heat waves?

Unfortunately, we could never send the lot of them overseas to test the theory.

It was all built on sand

If anyone deserves a bail-out, surely it’s those humanitarians in Dubai.

Why even bother?

In addition to showing it very late, the ABC is showing the latest Doctor Who episode, Waters of Mars, in reduced quality.

And they wonder why people look elsewhere for their television! Late and low quality. Why bother buying it at all? Just how much of an audience do they think they’ll still have?

This year’s Christmas special will probably be shown in black and white, in June. June 2013.

(Via LGWS.)

Marriage Equality Rally photos (Melbourne)

Fewer people than last time, I think – I guess gay Australians can be as apathetic as the rest of us – but still a good, representative sample of ordinary Australians standing up for basic human rights on behalf of the busy majority.

The photos only cover the part of the rally in front of the State Library, because I had to leave before the march itself to go and have a car accident. I’ll update the post with links to other people’s photos as I become aware of them.

UPDATE #1: A video of the rally:

UPDATE #2: Ozpolitik has some photos of the Brisbane rally.

UPDATE #3: Video of the Sydney rally:

It’s absurd that in 2009 we have to do this – but we really do

There will be rallies for Marriage Equality around the country today at lunchtime (check this website for times and locations – in Melbourne it’s 1pm at the Town Hall).

Rallies aren’t really my thing, at all, but I can’t really stand by while fellow Australians are being discriminated against for no reason whatsoever. Not in good conscience, anyway. Other personal plans, tempting though they may be, are not enough of an excuse to just ignore what’s continuing to be done to gay people in this country by a cynically hostile government. There’s a time to stand with them, and that’s today.

The ALP and Liberal politicians have made an electoral calculation and figure, from the numbers of religious people who were prepared to click on a web-based form and demand that the law be based on arbitrarily-chosen parts of something called “Leviticus”, that there are more votes to be lost than gained by ending the discrimination.

I think they’re wrong, but we need to show them. We need to make it obvious, as if to a child, that they’re on the wrong side of history. And that there will be electoral consequences for that.

We need to show them by doing more than just sending emails; by making the effort to stand up and be counted. The more ordinary Australians at this rally, the more pressure will be placed on MPs – particularly ALP MPs – to finally do the right thing. The last one saw thousands of people around the country standing up for human rights and fairness.

We can do even better today.

We saw this week how powerful a noisy minority could be when they raise their voices – and they were a demented minority, determined to destroy their chosen political party by insisting it stubbornly pretend there’s no such thing as climate change. (The atmosphere is magically infinite and can absorb whatever we throw at it! God will save us!) In contrast, we’re the majority, and all we’re asking is that the ALP live up to its founding principles of equality and justice.

Let’s make it even more difficult for them to continue to deny gay people the rights that the rest of us enjoy.

Hope to see you there. If you’re in Melbourne, 1pm at the Town Hall. Other cities – check the website.

UPDATE: Photos here.

Senate Inquiry into Marriage Equality Bill gives flimsiest, most pathetic reason for rejecting it

The day the Federal ALP decided not to overturn the ACT’s civil “not as good as marriage, we promise” same-sex relationship register law (provided it was watered down even more), the Senate Inquiry into the Greens’ Marriage Equality Bill has given its answer: No. No, we are going to continue to discriminate against gay people in the area of marriage, for no reason whatsoever.


Committee says no.

To understand how they reached this unbelievable conclusion, you should first understand the make up of the committee. There were three ALP Senators, two Liberal Senators and one Green. The three ALP Senators and one Liberal Senator recommended:

  1. That there be a national relationships register (separate and unequal);

  2. That DFAT issue certificates of non-impediment to marriage to same sex couples as well, so that it doesn’t stop couples marrying overseas; but we won’t recognise their marriages here;
  3. That the Bill be rejected and inequality in marriage retained.

Even that wasn’t nasty enough for Guy Barnett, who opposed both 1 and 2.

The Green Senator obviously stood for equality and simply recommended that the bill be passed. She also asked the major parties to allow their members a conscience vote on the issue. (They won’t.)

So, ignoring Barnett, who’s a bigot, and Ludlum, who’s the only person on the committee who believes in equality, how did the inquiry reach its conclusion that discrimination should be retained?

Well, they received 28,000 submissions – 11,000 for, 17,000 against. That was a powerful reminder to the ALP candidates that organised religious groups would work hard to defeat them if they didn’t continue to impose their prejudice on gay people. The proponents of the Bill had reason; the opponents had numbers. And organisation. There were more than 9,000 versions of the following stupidity:

To Whom it May concern,

I wholeheartedly and passionately oppose the Marriage Equality Bill 2009 because it would completely change the meaning marriage has had throughout history and have such a detrimental effect. Children need both a mum and a dad in the safety of a marriage relationship and to change the meaning of marriage is to damage this safety.

Why do people think they can change the meanings of words? Do I now say to you that ‘house’ doesn’t mean a place with walls and a roof where you live, it is now a 4 wheeled vehicle with a pillow in the back for sleeping. NO, you’d vehemently object to such a change in definition and that is the case with my feelings and the new marriage bill.

PLEASE do not change the way we view marriage, it should not change as people change – meanings need to stay absolute.

Thankyou,

Michelle Melia

Apart from possibly eventually having to update her 1847 dictionary, Michelle apparently couldn’t actually explain what “detrimental effect” gay marriage would have, or how children “needing both a mum and a dad” has anything to do with marriage, in a world filled with single parent and divorced families. But that doesn’t matter! She’d done what her church told her to do. She’d expressed her bigotry as if it were some kind of principle!

9,000 versions of that same form letter. Another 3,000 of one very similar, simply declaring that This Definition Must Not Change. That’s what hit the Senators. It didn’t matter that the fundamental argument of the letter made no sense whatsoever, much less raised objections which could even plausibly be contrasted with the real rights of the people this legislation directly affects.

Pity their job trying to think of some vaguely plausible reasons for pandering to that mob. This is what they came up with:

  1. Lots of people are passionate about the issue.

  2. We’ve asked the commonwealth to review relationship recognition arrangements, isn’t that enough like “equality” for you?
  3. And we’ve asked that the commonwealth not put bureaucratic hurdles in the way of gay people wanting to marry overseas – we’re bending over backwards for you people!
  4. The current definition is “a clear and well-recognised legal term which should be preserved”, although we are not going to give a single reason why that trumps all the strong arguments against it.

That’s seriously it. You want the last part quoted verbatim? This is, in its entirety, how the committee justified rejecting the bill:

While the committee agrees that the current definition of ‘marriage’ in the Marriage Act 1961 is appropriate, other types of relationships play an important part in Australian society and deserve recognition. For this reason, the committee’s recommendation not to alter the definition of marriage should not be taken as a lack of support for same-sex couples. However, the committee considers that the current definition is a clear and well-recognised legal term which should be preserved. The committee recommends that the Bill not be passed.

What?

Months of investigation, thousands of submissions, and they’re dismissed with a simple “the current definition is a clear and well-recognised legal term which should be preserved”. WHY?!

Patricia Crossin (who ironically gave a speech last week praising the Sex Discrimination Act and saying, about that anti-discrimination legislation, “It is hard to imagine that it could have ever caused controversy, yet it did” – sadly, the parallel seems to have escaped her), David Feeney, Mary Jo Fisher, Gavin Marshall – you are embarrassments to your country. You only look humane compared with Guy Barnett, who has exposed himself as a completely bigoted twit.

One again, the Greens demonstrate that they’re the only party standing up for human rights in this parliament. Which is disappointing, because there’s only five of them.

What to do? Well, obviously this isn’t the end of the fight. There will be no end to the fight until gay people have achieved the equality they so patently deserve. But the sooner it’s done, the better.

The rallies around the country on Saturday are even more critical than ever. The above is a temporary setback, but that’s all it is – the tide of history is on our side. Equality is important. Ending discrimination is important. I’ll be there, because we need to be counted on this until the damned injustice is fixed; I hope you will be, too.

ELSEWHERE: Steve “if the ALP doesn’t stuff up again and preference me, this is my last year of being a Senator” Fielding makes even more of an arse of himself than usual, likening gay marriage to incest.

Kitteh ruins photograph

Quick note to ABC news – if you’re trying to illustrate a story about poverty and deprivation in remote communities such a way that highlights the absolute despair of the place, don’t pick the photograph that features a cute kitteh:

I suspect the reaction this picture is meant to prompt is “Oh” or “Ugh”, not “Aww!”

On the subject of the article itself – sigh.

Everybody loves open plan

I’m surprised it’s taken this long before there was a serious backlash against open-plan offices:

Organisational psychologist Dr Darryl Cross said workers were reporting major gripes with the open-plan layout and warned big corporations of a lack of productivity, the Herald Sun reports.

“People can’t feel free, open and relaxed. If they have to watch who is around and watch their calls then clearly they are not going to feel good,” Dr Cross said.

He said the open-plan office was born because it was cheap – not to benefit workers – and there was no doubt the system led to low morale.

“When you have a distraction it takes you 50 per cent more time to get back to it,” he said. “They can’t work in such an environment.”

Obviously it’s been a long while since I’ve been in an open-plan environment – barristers’ chambers are individual offices with doors you can shut if you need to concentrate on something, and most of my time is spent at court anyway – but I remember the outright opposition to such schemes at previous workplaces. One had to bribe staff with extra leave if they would just shut up and agree…

Does anyone – apart from the people in management who have their own offices – like this scheme? Have you grown used to yours, or does it still rankle at your soul every day you arrive at your desk?