The Australian Equality Party plans to run initially for the Australian Senate at the 2016 Federal Election, then to contest seats in local elections and in state and federal elections, in upper and lower houses.
The AEP’s first potential candidate for the Senate is party convener and practising marriage celebrant Jason Tuazon-McCheyne, who has been involved for a number of years in organisations relating to rainbow families.
He told the Star Observer the party came out of frustrations after last year’s federal election that the LGBTI community was not properly represented in parliament.
“A group of gay and lesbian people were sitting around talking about some rainbow families and some other things that we’ve all been involved in,” Tuazon-McCheyne said.
“It rose to the top, an idea I’d been thinking about, and I said, ‘We need to have our own independent gay voice inside the federal parliament. It’s time for us to actually stand up and speak for ourselves.’ And that idea last October has spawned this party.”
Tuazon-McCheyne was a Christian minister until the age of 28, when he came out as gay and was rejected by that community. Continuing to officiate weddings as a civil celebrant, he soon met his partner of 16 years Adrian, and the two now have an eight-year-old son through a surrogacy arrangement.
Although the party is still developing its policy platforms, there initially appears to be a focus on marriage and family-related issues.
“One of our policy platforms is marriage equality, but it’s the family stuff around that. There’s adoption issues and surrogacy issues and ‘not everyone’s on the birth certificate’ issues and parenting order issues and all that sort of stuff,” he said.
Tuazon-McCheyne explained these issues form part of one of AEP’s four initial stated aims, also iterating a focus on anti-discrimination. He identified the removal of religious exemptions in anti-discrimination law and the need for specific anti-homophobia policies at a government level as part of that focus.
“Marriage and family is one tenet, the discrimination thing is our other tenet and that covers everything else,” he said.
“And then the third tenet is to be a voice for our community at every level of politics in Australia, and then the fourth tenet, which is also important, is that we’re a human rights party at the end of the day.”
The potential candidate was unable to name any of the party’s specific trans or intersex-focused policy platforms, but said he planned to consult broadly so the whole LGBTI community is represented.
“I’ve got meetings with people over the next six to eight weeks to actually ask them face to face… It is badly understood and one of the first things that’s on my plate is to understand them really well and to be a voice,” Tuazon-McCheyne said.
“All of those issues are going to be something that we’ll advocate for and we’ll expand [our focus] as we go along, but we have to start somewhere.”
He also stressed that AEP is not aligned to any other political parties, and hoped at the next federal election people would consider giving them their vote in the upper house while voting for whoever they identified with in the lower house.
As a fledgling organisation the AEP still needs a total of 500 members to be able to register as a political party, and Tuazon-McCheyne encouraged interested members of the LGBTI or heterosexual communities to join.