This is what 2nd Class Citizenship Looks Like: US Boy Scouts & Oz Shopworkers Union

‘Please, sir,’ said Oliver, ‘I want some more.’ There was a general start. Horror was depicted on every countenance.  pic from El Bibliomata

I’m sick of organisations that refuse to allow LGBTI folk into positions of leadership.

Example One. The American Boy Scouts have generously decided they will allow gay kids to join their movement. Under the old rules it was clear: you’re gay, you’re not wanted.Now, you’re fine, we love you, yes, please, do come camping with us.

But as soon as you hit 18, if you’re gay, bi or trans, it’s out the door, thank you very much. And that, they insist, is that.

“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue,” the BSA said in a statement. “As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.”

What kind of message does it send, to tell young people their sexuality makes them unfit for leadership? Oh no, my good sirs, this will not do.

I want more.

Example Two. The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association has more than 35,000 members, and if my shopping extensive experience is anything to go by, a very large number of those members are gay. But the Queensland branch of the union is blocking LGBTI people from office, in breach of Equal Opportunity law.

They send would-be leaders to lectures run by The Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty, a religious anti same-sex marriage organisation. A union official said:

‘‘When we choose our shop stewards we have to make sure they are not gay and they have to have the same thinking lines along that type of thing.”

There’s no reason to believe the other state branches don’t do the same thing. How can this union represent the interests of its LGBTI members, when it strives so hard to keep gays out of leadership roles?

I want better. I want more.

Background Information

The Shoppies union President, Joe de Bruyn, holds his post effectively for life. He dines weekly with Cardinal Pell. Since the union controls the biggest voting bloc in the Labor Party, his support made Julia Gillard  – who is inexplicably opposed to marriage equality – Prime Minister. You do the math.


Media Release Friday 24 May, 2013


Rank and file members of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), have condemned the recent revelations in the Queensland Branch of the union that officials face victimisation for not toeing a socially conservative line.

Shop Steward and convenor of SDA Members for Marriage Equality, Duncan Hart, said that “the union leadership has never sought endorsement from the membership of the union to justify its socially conservative and frankly right-wing opposition to issues such as marriage equality or abortion rights.’

‘Branch Secretary Chris Ketter happily suggests that private lectures to paid officials by a conservative Christian are an “internal matter.” As a member of the SDA I have to ask just how internal it is.  Having been a member nearly seven years and a shop steward for five, I can assure you that not once has the union publicised its position on these issues in its quarterly members’ news, or invited the opinions of members.”

Fellow shop steward and fast food employee Carl Jackson agrees:

“Every opinion poll makes it clear that the young retail workers who compose the SDA support marriage equality by an overwhelming majority.’

‘This is despite very public statements by the union recently against marriage equality. This is the biggest union in Australia in terms of membership and consequently the most influential within the Labor Party, yet its leadership is totally unrepresentative of the opinions of its members.”

The muzzling of dissent is part and parcel of a leadership policy which deliberately ignores the members, says Duncan:

This latest dismissal of a union official attempting to democratically challenge the leadership shows Branch Secretary Chris Ketter’s contempt for the views of his members. It confirms how unrepresentative he and other officials are of members’ views.  Rather than Alan Swetman being fired, Ketter should resign from his post and from the Labor Party senate ticket, which he only acquired through his position as Queensland branch secretary of the SDA. It’s time for openness, accountability and a change of leadership in the SDA.”

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)