The veto of the choice of VEOHRC Commissioner by our state Attorney-General and resulting mass exodus of the VEOHRC board is an extremely worrying development, particularly at a time when opponents of GLBTI people seem more extreme than ever.

We’ve seen the desperate tactics of the Australian Christian Lobby and their dwindling supporters on marriage (no, I don’t want to marry my goldfish).

The comment by a Salvation Army major is the first time in my 17 years of being ‘out’ I’ve heard anyone in any relatively ‘high-up’ position in Australia coldly and methodically call for the deaths of gays and lesbians. I’m really not interested in playing bush lawyers in regard to technicalities about parts of the Scriptures and their meaning. For someone to say that people should die because they identify as part of a group – any group – is abhorrent. It would have been as disgusting (I feel sick saying this) had he called for the deaths of Jews or people with dark skin.

While the higher-ups at the Salvation Army have “clarified” the individual’s comments as only applying to Salvation Army officers, this is not enough. The comments need to be 100 percent rejected – and leaders of all sorts of Christian denominations and politicians from across the political spectrum need to do so as well. Even if there is a 0.0001 of 1 percent chance someone could act on that comment, it is too big a risk and needs to be made completely zero.

This raises the question of religious exemptions from Equal Opportunity laws; exemptions which most of our nine state and federal governments still maintain. The fact that an organisation like the Salvos receives $471 million of taxpayers’ money to promote hatred to any degree must bring into question these in-built exemptions to basic principles of human dignity and fairness.

In relation to VEOHRC, more than ever this is a time when we need the best board, the best commissioner – and adequate funding for proactive education. That funding could be for infrastructure for the GLBTI community directly or possibly through bodies like VEOHRC to strongly assert, maintain and strengthen those basic principles. However, it seems we are clearly going the wrong way (acknowledging things are worse for our GLBTI siblings in Queensland). It was great to see the ACT, which recently announced further funding for transgender group A Gender Agenda, go the right way. We need that sort of approach around the country for all GLBTI people.

I urge you to start knocking loudly on the door of your state/territory and federal politicians and get answers as to why we have such huge exemptions for religion (as well as their tax deductible status when they lobby), yet GLBTI people have few resources to counter hatred and increase understanding.

It’s time to veto hatred and give the green light to good values.

Personal disclosure: the vetoed VEOHRC commissioner is Hugh de Kretser, Executive Officer of the Federation of Community Legal Centres of which I am a paid employee.

INFO: Sally Goldner is acting spokesperson for the VGLRL.

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