In a truly remarkable display of anti-gay animus, the Queensland government has not only voted to rollback civil unions overnight, but also flagged its intention to ban same-sex couples from having children through surrogacy.
It signals even darker days ahead for the state’s gay community, who have now seen more than $2.5 million in LGBT health funding pulled, the loss of relationship recognition and flagged parental rights changes, all prioritised by a hostile, conservative government not even 100 days into power.
Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced plans for the surrogacy ban during the nearly five hours of fiery debate in state Parliament last night, where there were incredible scenes of community anger.
At one point the public gallery erupted with chants of “Shame, bigots, shame!”, while another man cried out “We’re human beings, not animals” earlier in the evening. The public were eventually ejected from viewing the debate to prevent further disruption.
Bleijie identified a similar surrogacy ban proposal by the LNP’s Lawrence Springborg in 2009 – which would remove surrogacy rights from single people, same-sex couples and de facto couples of less than two years – as being the blueprint for the LNP’s new ban.
Queensland’s surrogacy laws were amended by Parliament in February, 2010 to make it legal for any person, regardless of relationship status, to enter into altruistic (non-commercial) surrogacy arrangements.
The plans for a new ban suggest Premier Campbell Newman has all but lost control of the far-right of his party, having been adamant only in March that there would be no tampering with surrogacy laws.
“We will not be making any changes to the laws on those matters,” he told Seven News just prior to the state election.
Newman had also pledged that the Civil Partnerships Act would only be amended to remove access to state-sanctioned ceremonies for same-sex couples, but was reported to have faced stiff opposition to the decision not to fully repeal the laws from within the LNP.
Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Queensland director Wendy Francis, meanwhile, welcomed the announcement that same-sex couples would be prevented from “acquiring babies”.
“ACL congratulates the government on this move. This is the right thing and is in the best interest of the child, something the state is bound to uphold under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” she said.
“There is a message to federal politicians currently subject to a propaganda war from gay activists that it is possible to resist the activists’ agenda.
“We appreciate the LNP protecting marriage in Queensland, given the abuse from intolerant gay activists, the Greens and GetUp that anyone standing up for marriage is subjected to.”
The news of a surrogacy ban eclipsed the changes to the Civil Partnerships Act in the early hours of this morning.
The amendments passed in a vote of 69 to eight just after midnight and will now see state-sanctioned ceremonies removed, civil unions known as “registered relationships”, and a streamlining of their dissolution process through the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, rather than the District Court.
The government argued that a court process to end same-sex unions may appear too similar to ending a marriage.
Marriage equality advocates said the rollback showed why only changes to marriage laws can deliver full equality for same-sex couples.
“The problem with civil unions is that they can be tampered with and watered down, as is currently occurring in Queensland, but marriage will always provide full and unequivocal recognition,” Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich said.
“Same-sex marriage is the only way to deliver true equality for same-sex couples.”