The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby say their forum on federal relationship recognition this Saturday will not become a slanging match like the marriage forum held in May.
Lobby co-convenor David Scamell says the new forum will allow each community organisation time to put their views forward, and that none of the groups are keen to see a repeat of the last debate.
I think we all agree that no one benefits from a shouting match, Scamell said. We don’t see the point in making it an adversarial debate.
We’ve spoken to the different groups involved in the debate so far, including Australian Marriage Equality, the Greens and Community Action Against Homophobia. Each community group will be able to make a statement.
The forum will be chaired by former New Mardi Gras co-chair Michael Woodhouse, who Scamell is confident will be able to control the crowd if things get a bit rowdy.
The marriage forum in May was held just hours after the NSW Greens announced they were introducing a state-based same-sex marriage bill, much to the outrage of some community members.
There were complaints the community had not been consulted about the bill.
Some said they weren’t interested in state-based marriage as it wouldn’t be federally recognised, and others thought there was no point in the bill as it was not likely to get through parliament.
The anger at the last forum was in the context of a bill which hadn’t been properly brought to the community. There were a lot of people who felt very emotional about it, Scamell said.
Luke Gahan, convenor of Australian Marriage Equality, said he wasn’t afraid of a repeat of the last forum.
At the last forum people were able to air a lot of views and vent a lot of anger. Now at least everyone’s got their cards on the table and we can come together as a community and have a discussion around relationship recognition and all the various forms that takes, Gahan said.
I think last time there was a bit of animosity because the forum was organised by a particular political party, whereas this forum is organised by the Rights Lobby. So the forum will be seen as open to suggestions from all different parties and people from different persuasions.
Saturday’s forum marks the beginning of the Lobby’s community consultation process on federal relationship recognition.
There will be four speakers providing information on the different types of recognition models such as marriage, civil unions, de facto and partnership registration.
New Zealand MP Tim Barnett will discuss the successful campaign for civil unions in his country. Jenni Millbank from the University of Sydney will speak on international developments in marriage and civil union law reform.
Former Lobby convenor David McLachlan will speak on the 1990s campaign for de facto recognition in NSW. And Gahan will discuss Australian Marriage Equality’s campaign for same-sex marriage.
Following the forum the Lobby plans to release a consultation paper to the community which will outline the different relationship recognition models available.
Scamell said the Lobby would then apply for a grant from the Law and Justice Foundation to provide funding for state-wide community consultation.
Once that’s all done, based on what people are saying, we’ll put out a final report with recommendations from the Lobby on federal relationship recognition. We’ll send the report to every politician in federal parliament and try to make them understand the reasons for the reform.
Scamell said suggestions the Lobby had already made up its mind on the model of relationship recognition they would push for were not true.
In terms of federal relationship recognition we have always said that we need to consult with the community and there needs to be a proper debate. People have not been given the opportunity to discuss it and learn about the different models. Once they do the Lobby will have a firm position.
The forum is being held on Saturday 18 June from 1pm at @Newtown, 52 Enmore Road, Enmore.