With a state election just two months away, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is seeking commitments from all political parties about moving on our law reform issues.
But Lobby co-convenor Somali Ghosh warned the parties that promises would not be enough: this time around, the Lobby is looking for timeframes.
Regarding the vexed issue of introducing equal age of consent legislation for gay men, Ghosh said, We’re looking for a firm commitment as to when it will be happening, and how.
Last week the Lobby sent out surveys to all major political parties and candidates and will follow this up with meetings with key party representatives in an effort to gauge their commitment to lesbian and gay law reform. The surveys will quiz the parties on their positions regarding the age of consent, Anti-Discrimination Act reform and gay and lesbian parenting. Parties will also be asked to outline their policies on areas such as gay and lesbian ageing and youth homelessness.
The parties answer quite readily on the law reform questions, but these last two areas have been included to get the parties thinking about our issues a bit more deeply, Ghosh said.
The Lobby has identified four key priorities for its lobbying efforts this year. They include the age of consent issue, rights and recognition for lesbian and gay parents, and reform of the Anti-Discrimination Act to ban the exemptions afforded to religious groups -“ exemptions which currently enable church organisations to discriminate against lesbians and gay men with impunity.
A fourth priority for the Lobby will centre on reforming the few remaining pieces of legislation which discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in the wake of the Miscellaneous Acts Amendment (Relationships) Bill, passed by the parliament in September. This last push is being referred to as the missing, missing pieces, Ghosh explained.
While the Lobby waits for parties to respond to their survey, they have also put out a call for members of the lesbian and gay community to ensure that they are correctly enrolled on the voting register.
The first step in influencing the state election is to ensure that you are enrolled to vote so that you have the opportunity to stand up and make your voice heard at the ballot box, Ghosh said. This is especially important for gays and lesbians who have recently turned 18 and those who have moved house.
Lobby treasurer Robert McGrory concurred. In some marginal electorates it can come down to a few votes, and it is these votes that can be the difference between having someone in parliament who supports our rights and someone who doesn’t, he said.
Electoral enrolment forms can be found at Australia Post offices or downloaded from www.aec.gov.au.
Rolls will close at the end of February, so enrol to vote now and make sure that your voice is heard in the state election, Ghosh said. Gays and lesbians have a right to equality and social justice. It’s time to step up to the mic.