As always, there has been a lot going on over the past month, including the community’s response to police (mis)conduct during the Mardi Gras Festival, as well as the Legislative Council’s hearings into state-based marriage equality laws.
One event which almost went unnoticed was the second anniversary of the election of the O’Farrell government, which happened last week. This officially marked the halfway point of this term of Parliament.
Many people in the LGBTI community probably greeted the election of a Liberal/National government back in March 2011 with a degree of trepidation, not knowing exactly what to expect on gay and lesbian issues. The good news is that there have not been any major backwards steps on gay and lesbian law reform in NSW.
In fact, there have been some small wins, with the continuation of the Proud Schools pilot, and the passage of a symbolic motion in favour of marriage equality by the Legislative Council in mid-2012. However, there have been no major advances on gay and lesbian rights under the O’Farrell government so far either.
As the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, we believe that over the next 12 months it is time for the Liberal/National government, and the Parliament more broadly, to demonstrate its commitment to treating the LGBTI people of NSW equally.
There are three major legislative and policy issues which are already on the agenda for the coming year. The first is the Upper House inquiry into the partial defence of provocation, which is due to report by May 2. We will be looking for the O’Farrell government to abolish the homosexual advance or ‘gay panic’ defence, because non-violent sexual advances should never be a justification to downgrade a murder conviction to manslaughter.
The second issue is the state-based marriage equality bill, which should be voted on later in 2013. The GLRL wants parliamentarians of all political persuasions to support the legal recognition of the equality of same-sex relationships.
The third issue which is already on the agenda is a decision on the long-term future of Proud Schools. At the Lobby, we believe that all LGBTI students deserve to have an education free from bullying, prejudice and discrimination. Consequently, we want to see Proud Schools continued and indeed expanded across NSW.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, and the lobby will be campaigning on other issues, including removing religious exceptions in anti-discrimination law and calling for a review of the criminalisation of commercial surrogacy arrangements, during the ‘second half’ of this term.
But, by acting on the three issues identified above, the O’Farrell Government, and the NSW Parliament generally, would demonstrate that they genuinely believe LGBTI people should be treated equally. Time will tell.