It’s A Lot More Than Marriage

Protesting the continuing criminalisation of homosexuality in the Commonwealth. Alisdare Hickson

In March 2013 Julia Gillard was still Prime Minister, but within three months she was to be ousted by Kevin Rudd, who then lost the job to Tony Abbott in the September election. Also in March the stirrer asked a bunch of people from the G.A.Y.* community to write on the topic, “What’s Your Gay Agenda?”

The answers ranged widely: Christine Forster (Tony Abbott’s sister) wanted lots of conversations with MPs opposed to marriage equality; Adam Lowe, whose company was managing Midsumma at the time, wanted a coherent national LGBTI organisation; Peter Tatchell had a long list; Jonathan Duffy wanted us to be kinder to each other; Daniel Scoullar called homophobia a public health issue; David Parker wanted more of an international focus; and so it went. A very diverse agenda.

Here are some extracts, with links to original postings: I am contacting the writers to ask if they’d like to reflect on and perhaps update their agendas from 2013. Watch this space.

Christine Forster

She wrote about her marriage agenda, and the conversations with her brother, Tony Abbott. And she prefigured the direction the campaign for equal marriage has taken since.


 I’m convinced that if we are ever to see marriage equality in this country then we need to move our focus beyond the three votes of Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, and focus on the other 95 members of parliament who voted no. The mistake of the last vote was that we let it focus on the leaders and we focused on preaching to the people who already supported us, rather than having a nationwide conversation.

Peter Tatchell

Speaking about the battle for LGBTI rights in the UK, he gave a list of issues that are valid here in Australia, too. Britain legalised same sex marriage in July of that year.

Peter Tatchell by Matt Buck

  • the ban on same-sex marriage,
  • religious exemptions from the equality laws,
  • homophobic bullying in schools,
  • inadequate sex and relationship education for LGBT kids,
  • the 12 month blood ban,
  • high rates of mental ill-health and HIV,
  • recreational drug and alcohol abuse,
  • the refusal of asylum to LGBT refugees and,
  • sometimes, the failure of police and prosecutors to tackle anti-LGBT hate crimes (especially when race and religion are involved).

Daniel Scoullar

Daniel spoke from the perspective of a sexually fluid queer man in a relationship with a woman. He likened the situation of LGBTI people living in the homophobic atmosphere of Australian society to that of a non-smoker forced to breather other people’s second-hand smoke.


This harm is inflicted in places we all share and have a right to feel safe in – schools, workplaces, sports, public places, cafes/restaurants, religious organisations, social services, health settings and in our own homes. We see high profile people using the media, political office and the internet to espouse their harmful views every week of the year.

It is completely unacceptable that we can’t live our lives without being subjected to direct or indirect harm of this kind. It is actually a public health issue – and in many areas, a public health crisis –  that has not yet been properly addressed – or even fully recognised by health authorities and providers who are failing their duty of care.

David Parker

David bewailed the insular nature of Australian LGBTI people, focussing solely on issues here at home.


We need to take the time to educate ourselves and tackle the WORLD WIDE plight of inequality, and breaches of basic human rights our community faces. We need to learn not to be so insular that our fight becomes solely for theAustralian LGBTIQ community.

We have many rights and freedoms already, and dare I say it, we take them for granted. We need to recognise our early activists in Australia, who gained such rights for us, in a far greater way, as we continue to fight for greater equality….. BUT we MUST NOT ignore the fight for rights of our worldwide brothers and sisters because they come from another place, far away in a Third World Country.

Adam Lowe

He had ambitions to change the way our community works – and to change the country too. Divided, fragmented, squabbling amongst ourselves – has that changed at all since he wrote:

Adam Lowe

My early observation of LGBTIQ communities remains unchanged today.  Too many organisations, not working together well enough to effectively achieve their common goals, whilst draining the capacity of their respective stakeholders.

We are not building our communities’ governance to eradicate this problem, and that is hampering our ability to engage with our existing governments.  Even though our existing governments have their own flaws.

Initially we need to structure our communities’ governance to mirror that of the nation. (National, State and Local).  We need a national peak body, which operates sub branches and sets the agenda from the top down.

Jonathan Duffy

The actor and comedian, now living in Iceland, and most recently seen lending a hand with that country’s entry in Eurovision, saw the problem differently. Not in terms of structures and organisations, but in the way we treat one another. Especially when we are in a position to help someone else.


I believe that we could change some of the ways in which we operate as gatekeepers to do something I call ‘Gaying It Forward’.

All you need to do is notice when you are a “gatekeeper” and before you choose your course of action, ask yourself two questions; “What will this actually cost me?” and “Who am I ultimately helping?”

You will probably find that in a majority of situations the personal cost to you for passing on information or retweeting is nothing. The person you are helping is someone who needs it, and in many cases, is trying to a positively influence the rainbow-coloured cacophony of issues that all bundle together to create our equal rights.

Daniel Witthaus

A lone wolf, as always, following his own unique agenda, more practical than political, asked the simple question, What works and what doesn’t? And why?


Scratch that LGBTI surface and we find that it’s only better for those who are resourced, supported and linked in. I’ve actually had people get frustrated and angry with me when I say this.  Their sense is that things are better for them these days and those around them.  So how can it be seemingly better, yet the research evidence still points to LGBTI people, young and old, experiencing similar levels of abuse and harassment as they did over a decade earlier?


By Brian GreigDylan CarmichaelMichael JamesPhil WalcottTess Emery and David Menadue. Check them out.

And even more!

More new G.A.Y.* Agendas will appear throughout the election campaign.

*G.A.Y. = the acronym formerly known as LGBTI2QQAA+

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)