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GUEST COLUMN: Affirmation or ‘Tolerance’?
With the Liberals now in power in Canberra, the focus turns to the 2014 State election as the next opportunity for us to build a strong framework of equal rights for the Victorian LGBTIQ community.
The 2014 election looms as a stark choice between, on the one hand, affirming the rights and role of LGBTIQ Victorians in our diverse social fabric, and a reluctant continuation of the archaic ‘tolerance’ model on the other. Politically, this is a choice between a Labor Premier in Daniel Andrews – a leader who supports marriage equality and was the first to dedicate an Equality Spokesperson to champion the role of rights in creating a stronger, healthier community – and a conservative Liberal in Denis Napthine, a man with a history of contemptible attitudes to LGBTIQ Victorians and a pedigree of opposing legislative efforts to deliver equal rights for Victorians.
The Liberals’ indifference to the rights of the LGBTIQ community is reflected in the signature legislative effort of their term in Government: the rolling back of the Labor’s Equal Opportunity Act, making it easier to sack LGBTIQ Victorians in the workplace. Conservative Liberal governments frame their approach as ‘tolerating’ difference – but the very notion of being ‘tolerant’ is belittling to the worth and value of our community members. Fundamentally, the Liberals remain firmly rooted in a bygone era in which a strong LGBTIQ community is not accepted as a vibrant part of a strong and healthy society.
Labor’s approach, in contrast, is one which affirms diversity – and celebrates it as central to building a community that fosters creativity, opportunity and justice. This is a cause that must be led by a positive, progressive government. Labor’s approach is to move us well beyond the out-dated model of acceptance and tolerance, to one of equality, recognition and celebration. It is an approach that will see the diverse sexualities, sex and gender identities of all Victorians recognised as an integral part of the Victorian success story. It is path to a better Victoria gained through the affirmation of all our communities’ differences and strengths in diversity – be it they differences of race, creed, sexuality, gender, disabilities or political choices. Labor’s vision of the role of government is one that champions rights, cuts down the remaining barriers to equality and opposes discrimination in all its forms.
These are the stark philosophical differences between Liberal and Labor – between conservatives and progressives – which underpin the differing approaches to policy and reform for LGBTIQ Victorians.
Under the Liberals, change is piecemeal, begrudging and regularly resisted. The alternative approach – the affirmative approach – recognises that change must be embraced and championed by government to drive the outcomes the community deserves. Labor recognises that our LGBTIQ community suffers under the weight of laws that deny their rights: be it in family and relationship status, in employment, in access to health and aged services and in how their sexualities and sex and gender identities are not reflected – let alone supported – in the way that government and community operates. Labor believes that government must lead the charge in breaking down these inequalities, and in bringing an end to homophobia and transphobia as anachronisms that have no place in our society.
Progress on the rights of LGBTI Victorians has been smothered under Denis Napthine. With State Labor appointing the first ever Shadow Parliamentary Secretary role for Equality reporting directly to alternative Premier Daniel Andrews, we take seriously the need to affirm and celebrate our LGBTIQ community, and take the necessary actions to build equality in the lives of Victorians. We are committed to championing the rights of LGBTIQ Victorians under a future Labor State government, and 2014 will bring our policy plan for change.