The announcement several weeks ago that the Queensland government would seek to repeal provisions that enable same sex couples, de facto couples of less than two years, and singles from entering into surrogacy arrangements was yet another blow to the rights of LGBTI people in that state.
It is a reminder that there are many issues of discrimination which still affect LGBTI people, and it is vitally important that all of us speak up when our rights are threatened.
Much of the success of the campaign for marriage equality has come from its ability to engage and mobilise large sections of the Australian population.
More than 275,000 people made submissions to the recent House of Representatives Committee Inquiry into the two marriage equality bills before it, with 64 percent of respondents in favour of changing the laws to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Our challenge now is to mobilise that same level of public awareness and support to address the other issues which affect us.
There have already been success stories. Father Paul Kelly’s petition calling on the Queensland government to remove the homosexual advance (“gay panic”) defence from the books has had over 200,000 responses.
For those of you in Queensland, there in another petition by psychologist Paul Martin, sponsored by Labor MP Jackie Trad, on the Queensland Parliament website calling for the Premier and Attorney-General not to proceed with the proposed amendments to the Surrogacy Act 2010 (Qld), which currently has about 5,000 signatories.
Of course, legislative reform needs more than popular support alone – the delay in legislating for marriage equality is testament to that. Yet ultimately our politicians are elected by the people, and we cannot underestimate the power that we have.
Beyond signing petitions, there are many other ways to get involved in the campaign for equality – writing to or meeting with your local member of parliament, raising awareness within local communities and social circles are all important steps in building momentum for change.
The GLRL is planning advocacy training in order to provide community members with the skills they need to take action – stay posted for details. We are also always looking for new volunteers.
Within NSW the situation is somewhat better – the surrogacy reforms we fought so hard for in 2010 remain in place (though extraterritorial criminal sanctions for commercial surrogacy arrangements procured legally overseas remain a concern), and a current Legislative Council Select Committee Inquiry into the partial defence of provocation will provide an opportunity to raise the issue of the ‘homosexual advance defence’.
While the focus of the GLRL is on NSW state and federal reform, the states need to support each other whenever one of us is under fire. Together, we will continue to bring equality closer for all of us.