Are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Australians owed an apology like the one we’ve seen to the Stolen Generation? If the criterion is systematic mistreatment by the Government which resulted in deep personal trauma, the answer is yes.
For 200 years Australian authorities intimidated, harassed and imprisoned countless homosexuals for the crime of love.
Take this extract from a Tasmanian newspaper, headed -˜Why Noel shot himself and Bert went to gaol’. It tells a story that was repeated across the continent.
If there had been reform in 1958 I would have been saved from the worst period of my life. I was 21 and living in Launceston with another man of the same age. The police came to the house and asked who lived there. When we said we did, they asked where we slept and we pointed to the only bed in the house. We were taken to the police station, interviewed and charged with gross indecency. In the Supreme Court I pleaded guilty. I had no legal representation. The case was over in 10 minutes. I got three years.
I don’t expect a fully-fledged apology to come soon. Governments are still too deeply implicated in anti-gay iniquities to be contrite for them. Before society apologises for its prejudices it must, at least, recognise these prejudices.
But we have started down the path to sorry. Some European governments have apologised for the systematic murder of gay men and lesbians during World War II. The Sydney-based 100 Reverends have apologised for the homophobia of their churches.
In light of these developments, an appropriate next step for our Federal Government would be to acknowledge the pain that legally entrenched discrimination has caused.
More than enough justification for such an acknowledgment is to be found in the many personal stories contained in the Human Rights Commission’s same-sex entitlements report.
The right moment to deliver it would be when the Government acts on this report and erases discrimination from most Federal laws.
The right person to deliver it would be the Prime Minister, not only because of his authority, but because of his Christian social conscience.
As leading journalist, Laurie Oakes, has said about the indigenous apology, before practical measures could be effective it was necessary to build a bridge -¦ [of] respect rather than contempt and suspicion.
The same applies for GLBT Australians and our families.
From bnews -“ www.bnews.net.au