In a 1976 article titled “Why Noel Shot Himself and Bert Went to Gaol” Bert, a victim of a less enlightened era says: “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. The public humiliation became too much for Noel and he killed himself”
In August 1988, the newly-formed Tasmanian Gay Law Reform Group had established a stall at Salamanca Markets to gather petition signatures and distribute information about decriminalising homosexuality, but a single complaint saw the stall closed. When the group defied the ban, the council ordered police to arrest anyone staffing or supporting the stall, or found in possession of a gay law reform petition or a poster. Over seven consecutive Saturday mornings, 130 people were arrested.
It’s hard to imagine such gross injustice happening in our ‘civilized’ society isn’t it? It wasn’t till May 1997 that law was repealed in Tasmania: only a decade ago.
And now the Good News - On December 10, this year, the Hobart City Council held a civic reception to apologise to the gay and lesbian community.
* Good News - On Saturday the 1st of March 2008, at the 30th Anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, 35 Christian Ministers (representatives of the 100 ministers who signed the apology, included 5 Pentecostal ministers) from the 100 Revs group joined the parade to say sorry to the GLBT community. In Australia, it has been a year of saying sorry for past injustices. * Good News - May 15, 2008 The California's Supreme Court declared that gay and lesbian couples can marry. (again) * Bad News – Proposition 8, a referendum in the US to define marriage as only between a man and a woman received a majority * Bad News - Under about half of the governments world-wide, consensual sexual contact between consenting male adults is punishable; in seven countries, all under Islamic religious law, such intimate contact is grounds for the death penalty. * Good News - On December 18 a declaration calling for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality, signed by 66 nations, was read from the podium of the United Nations thus beginning the process for universal acceptance. * Bad News – The United States was the only country among the major Western nations not to sign on to the non-binding UN resolution calling for an end to the criminalization of homosexuality in all the nations of the world. Both the Vatican and the Organization of Islamic States have opposed the resolution. * Bad News - Pope Benedict said in his Christmas message that saving humanity from homosexual acts is as important as saving the rainforests,. Benedict warned that blurring the distinction between male and female could lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race. In his address he described behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations as "a destruction of God's work" and said that the Roman Catholic Church had a duty to "protect man from the destruction of himself". * Good News - A study by the Australia Institute, Mapping Homophobia in Australia, revealed that only 34% Catholics believe homosexuality is immoral with similar numbers in Anglican and Uniting Churches revealing once again how out of touch many church leaders are with their congregations and the world around them. * Good News - Peter Tatchell, co-founder of OutRage! said: “By choosing to highlight homosexuality instead of hunger, war and homelessness, the Pope has lost his moral bearings and sense of priorities. Free market capitalism, and its culture of greed and consumerism, is a far greater threat to the ecological survival of our planet than homosexuality and transsexuality. * Bad News – Rick Warren, pastor of Saddle Back Mega church makes inappropriate comments about gays and lesbians. Give it time and we’ll have an apology from Rick as we will from many others I’m sure. * Good News - Monday 10 November, the Australian government gave same-sex couples the equal rights that are enjoyed by heterosexual married and de-facto couples. The changes ensure equal treatment of same-sex couples in areas including taxation, superannuation, Medicare, PBS, social security, aged care, family law and child support, migration, veterans’ and defence entitlements, workers’ compensation and a range of other benefits and obligations in around 100 laws were swept away with bipartisan support. * Bad News – Homophobic violence on Oxford St in Sydney increased during the year. I’ve known of several who have been bashed and personally spent a night in St Vincent’s Hospital Emergency Unit with a young man who’d been bashed; leaving him with a cracked skull and temporary loss of hearing. Last December 27-year-old Craig Gee was walking home from Oxford St with his partner. They were attacked by four men, his partner got away but Craig was left with a fractured jaw, an eye socket smashed in three places and a broken right leg. The attackers called Craig’s mother on his stolen mobile phone and told her “we killed your faggot son”. Walking up Oxford St at night can be quite a scary experience. For many years this was not the case but always a friendly safe space to stop and chat with friends on the strip.
What does all this tell us?
Progress is being made in some areas but there is still much to do. Those of us who live in progressive areas and demographics can often by lulled into a false sense that the world has changed and we are accepted for who we are. In my postcode of 2010, 35% identify as gay or lesbian. In most cases, gay and lesbian couples can display the same affection in public as heterosexuals do without fear. Move out a few suburbs and they would be verbally abused. Move into certain suburbs and they would be physically attacked. Living in some rural areas, it is nearly impossible to come out without serious reprisal of some sort.
Then of course we have certain cultures and religions today that have not moved in their understanding of sexuality for centuries. These are the challenges we face.
May 2009 be a year of great progress and milestone wins for equality and acceptance at all levels.
7 things to listen to and watch for your internet enjoyment over the holidays
1. Deconstructing the Ex-gay Myth - A recent article in the SMH Good Weekend on Ron Brookman, who heads up the Living Waters Ex-gay ministry, caused quite a stir. Hear my response when interviewed on the radio click here 2. Australia’s Second Openly Gay Pentecostal – Yes the number doubled this year. Twenty year old Ben, who attends our Sydney Freedom 2 b[e] meetings, recently took the brave step of coming out in the largest Pentecostal church in Australia. He was featured on the ABC2 Hack Half Hour. To see this confident young man confidently tell his story click here. To read more of his story and amazing coming out letter to his parents click here. 3. Prop 8 The Musical – a funny spoof on the ridiculous beliefs behind robbing gay and lesbian relationships of recognition. Click here. 4. ‘For the Bible Tells Me So’ cartoon. If you haven’t seen this wonderful documentary yet you can see the simple cartoon on the scientific evidence on sexual orientation featured on Youtube. Click here. You can purchase the doco in Australia now for $19.95. Click here. 5. Keith Olbermann Tells It Like It Is on Prop 8 - Keith Olbermann is an American sportscaster, news anchor, and political commentator. He hosts Countdown with Keith Olbermann, an hour-long nightly news and commentary program on MSNBC. As a heterosexual he challenges the motives of Christians who have targeted gays and lesbians and asks why? Amazing succinct, intelligent and challenging. Click here. 6. Christian group get police escort from the Castro, San Francisco. After the huge Christian campaign to support Prop 8, it just got too much for some in the gay community when a group of Christians came to tell them God loves them. The hypocrisy was blatant. See the results here. 7. Song ‘Don’t Tell Me Who to Love’ - Ray Boltz, a major Christian recording artist who has sold over 4.5 Million records has released his first single since his announcement in the Washington Blade, that he is gay. Great dance song with catchy tune and lyrics. Thanks Ray and welcome to the family. Click here.