In a week that saw 500 protesters deliver 24,000 letters supporting gay rights to South Australian parliamentarians, plans to withdraw gay and lesbian rights in Western Australia have emerged.
Western Australian opposition leader Colin Barnett confirmed this week he planned to raise the age of consent for gay men from 16 to 18 and ban same-sex couples from adopting if the Liberal Party won next year’s state election.
I do not support gay parents having adoption rights, Barnett told The West Australian.
I don’t doubt the ability of gay couples to be very caring but parenthood is essentially a man and a woman. I also happen to believe that the age of consent for homosexual relationships is 18.
Barnett said the reforms were not discriminatory against the gay and lesbian community: What I don’t agree with is when activists try and undermine the institutions of society in the name of equality.
WA became one of the country’s most progressive states in terms of gay and lesbian rights when the Labor government introduced sweeping reforms two years ago.
The reforms lowered the age of consent from 21 to 16, gave legal recognition to non-biological same-sex parents and legalised co-adoption for same-sex partners.
Barnett’s Family First policy outlining the reforms has been on his personal website for the past two years.
Rod Swift from Gay and Lesbian Equality WA said Barnett’s terrifying policies would put the state’s social justice policies back 25 years.
The thinking behind it is -˜we can support marriage and families by stripping gay people of their rights’, Swift told Sydney Star Observer.
It’s like saying, -˜There’s a huge road toll, let’s stop giving gay people their driver’s licence.’ It’s a nonsense policy, it shows they’re making policy on the run and shows their hard-right agenda.
Premier Geoff Gallop, whose government introduced the 2002 reforms, said the policies showed the Liberals were not focused on big issues.
My government is about getting more police on the street. Colin Barnett is about getting more police in people’s bedrooms.
The Equal Rights Network said the rights rollback plan highlighted the need for a national bill of rights, to enshrine legal equity in the Australian constitution.
Spokesperson Jen Van Achteren said gay rights advocates from all Australian states would work together to support the gay and lesbian community in Western Australia.
We will do all we can to uphold principles like equality and to stop police being sent back into the bedroom.
Meantime, 500 gay men, lesbians and supporters held a kiss-in protest on the steps of South Australia’s Parliament House this week.
Speakers, including former Australian Medical Association head Kerryn Phelps, told the crowd the South Australian government had buried a Bill aimed at updating 83 pieces of legislation to include gay and lesbian couples.
The Bill was sent to the state upper house, where activists expected it to languish in a committee inquiry for at least a year.
Greens MP Kris Hanna said in doing so, the government had crumpled under the pressure of propaganda from the religious right.
Unless we want to go back to the 1960s and outlaw homosexuality, there can be no justification for treating gay and lesbian people as second-class citizens with respect to superannuation, property and taxation law, Hanna said.
Gay and lesbian rights group Let’s Get Equal delivered 24,000 submissions in support of the Relationships Bill.
Let’s Get Equal spokesperson Matthew Loader said the huge community response would hopefully encourage MPs to speed up the reform process. But he said the delay could actually work in the gay community’s favour in the long run.
The more you struggle, then the greater the win in the end, and the stronger the overall community and political support will be in the future, he said.
Which means it will be harder to undermine it later, and the chances of what’s happening in WA at the moment happening here will be slim.