Freshly Doug Wednesday


Gay history marker on the streets of Philly, which also has rainbow-decorated street signs throughout the "Gaybourhood"

Gay history marker on the streets of Philly, which also has rainbow-decorated street signs throughout the “Gaybourhood”

Sydney has finally begun to visibly and, we hope, permanently, acknowledge the gay community. A rainbow crossing has been painted on Oxford St, just in time for Mardi Gras. The Daily Telegraph bleated at length about a ‘cost blowout’, and Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster voted against it in council because she thought the gesture was too expensive for a temporary installation. She says she wants it to be permanent.

1600 people have so far signed a petition by Alex Greenwich, the independent MP for Sydney, to make the crossing permanent. Not only would this give the G.A.Y. community a permanent visible acknowledgement in what is an iconic sector of the city, but it would also reduce the costs. Of the $110k cost quoted by the Telegraph, around half is for its removal once Mardi Gras is over. Maybe Christine will now sign Alex’s petition.

There are permanent and temporary rainbow crossings, street signage and other identifying markers in several cities in Europe and the USA. Gay history plaques on significant buildings are also started to appear.

For example, in Philadelphia,

Pennsylvania erected Philadelphia’s first LGBT marker to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the first Annual Reminder, a demonstration led by pioneering gay activists on July 4 from 1965 to 1969.

Also adding to Philadelphia’s LGBT appeal are nearly 70 rainbow street signs that adorn the lively and popular Gayborhood.

Andrews Kwame Pianim is a celebrated Ghanaian business economist and investment consultant. After ten years as a political prisoner, he made a 1996 bid to run for the presidency of Ghana. Switching gears, he found success as a businessman in Accra.” [Wikipedia]

So when he speaks out on an issue, people listen. And “the gay issue” has been making waves in Ghana, after President John Mahama’s nomination of gay rights defender Nana Oye Lithur as Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection.

Oye Lithur  said: “Not even the President of Ghana can deny anybody’s human rights irrespective of the person’s sexual orientation”, and that she will not personally promote homosexuality. But she will protect the fundamental human rights of homosexuals.

Kwame Pianim weighed into the controversy, saying,

“I do not believe that they should be given the title of marriage. Marriage is for procreation first and foremost, and for raising children and therefore if you say that somebody is going to get married and don’t have in view procreation, to me as a Catholic I cannot support that”

He added: “Whatever people’s sexual orientation i.s, that’s fine”, even though he added that: “I do not believe in homosexuality as something that should be agreed upon to be practiced openly”.

This may not sound like much of an endorsement of gay rights, but in the context of events in other African states, it’s progressive. At least they are managing to discuss the issue instead of throwing around death threats and tabloid calls for public hangings.

Catholic apologists in the UK are scrabbling to add a positive spin to the exposure and subsequent high-speed departure of Cardinal Keith O’Brien. He was accused of inappropriate behaviour with seminarians under his care some years ago. Among the lines being peddled are ‘this time we got rid of the offender quickly and publicly, and praised his accusers’, as if the Church had any choice after a big spread in a major national Sunday paper. Followed by veiled criticisms of the timing of the revelations, and of the accusers motives.

I guess we are going to see a lot more of these surrogate-led attacks on the church’s critics, now that the Monsignors in Rome have finally twigged that their own credibility is into minus figures, and still falling.

Others have also read the writing on the wall. 75 prominent members of the US Republican party have come out in support of marriage equality, in a brief filed with the Supreme Court. That follows President Obama’s own filing in support of striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. The Supremes are expected to rule on the issue soon.

Support was also forthcoming in submissions by major corporates like Apple and Google: I look in vain for supportive submissions from BHP, Coles, Telstra, Safeway and the like to our parliamentary inquiries into  equal marriage and anti-discrimination. Shame on you, corporate Australia.

While Western Europe progresses, Eastern Europe kicks back. In a bizarre upending of the usual anti-discrimination arguments, the Russian foreign minister argues that it is ‘normal’ Russians who need protecting from gay discrimination against them.

Mr Lavrov claimed that LGBT Russians threatened the Christian majority with a “kind of discrimination when one group of citizens gets the right to aggressively promote their own values that run against those shared by the majority of the society and impose them on children”.

And where does Australia stand in all this at the moment? Going nowhere. Progress on marriage and discrimination blocked by a severe case of religious constipation.

And finally, as they say on the news bulletins, a heartwarming story of a bunch of students who have raised the money for one of their mates to transition F to M. Now that’s one Frat House I’d like to join.

LATE BREAKING: The High Court has ruled against the disruptive unlicensed Adelaide street preachers. Here’s the judgement.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)