A meeting held between the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane and the Queensland premier the day before civil union laws were rolled back has upset LGBTI rights advocates and raised questions regarding the influence of organised religion on the government.
The Australian reported yesterday that Archbishop Mark Coleridge (pictured) met with Campbell Newman and Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie the day before the government introduced amendments to civil partnership laws which saw civil unions rolled back to a relationship register and state-sanctioned ceremonies scrapped.
The meeting was confirmed by a spokesperson for Bleijie who claimed that it had no influence over the amendments.
Hansard records show that Coleridge met with MPs at Parliament House again on the night that the amendments were introduced and an email from Coleridge to the government sent four days before the amendments were introduced included a comment for the government to “honour a promise” to repeal civil unions.
President of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Shelley Argent expressed her concern over the amount of influence that conservative religious groups have on the Newman government.
“I would think the church and religious groups such as the ACL, have way too much power… this government seems to be a law unto themselves and open consultation is never considered.” Argent told the Star Observer.
“The best governments are run by the state, not churches, and the issues of LGBT rights are social issues, not religious. This is what the LGBTIQ community has come to expect from such a biased government.”
Head of Queenslanders for Equality and leading LGBTI psychologist Paul Martin described the meetings and communications as alarming and expressed his concern over the effect that powerful religious bodies and lobby groups have on the mental health of some in the LGBTI community.
“I think its both alarming and disturbing that in 2012, a government in Australia can prioritise the ideology of a hyper conservative Christian group over the mental health of thousands of Queenslanders. In our private practice we saw a great surge in mental health issues following the rollback of civil unions,” Martin told the Star Observer.
Martin also commented on the power and sophistication that some hard lined-Christian lobby groups have.
“When you have a ideologically-driven government and these well-oiled Christian lobby groups, it is a dangerous combination for the mental health of smaller marginalised communities,” he said.
“What we’ve seen with this government is that when they make decisions that are ideologically based, they do it by stealth and surprise. When they have the only voice in parliament and the powerbrokers are hard lined Christians, it’s quite dangerous.”