Time For Real Equality

Shelley Argent and PFLAG launched a new response to the latest ‘Religious Discrimination’ draft bills.
“Equality Not Discrimination” seeks to scrap the proposed legislation altogether.
Click on the link to learn more and join the campaign. https://equalitynotdiscrimination.org/?fbclid=IwAR3j1BNqTWG0LIQxxRDUTJv8jpcowWlqqkqvTHvfDnDgCN8F2RhYC0fytMA

Kill Bill

The original proposals (which, if you remember, Phillip Ruddock reported were unnecessary) were redrafted after an outcry from Christian extremists – principally the big guns of the Catholic Church and the Sydney ‘Anglicans’, and of course the Dominionist Australian Christian Lobby.

The revised legislation, if enacted, would be even worse for LGBTI people than the original proposals. Check out the link to Shelley Argent’s PFLAG campaign site above for details.

Talking Without Listening

Throughout the ‘consultation’ process, the government has talked extensively with ‘religious’ representatives, but hardly at all with LGBTI people. The only ones they seem to have ‘consulted’ in any depth are from Equality Australia – the well-heeled phoenix that arose from the ashes of the gay millionaires’ club formerly known as Australian Marriage Equality.

It is now clear that this ‘consultation’ has been spectacularly ineffective. The government has not been ‘consulting’ in good faith. Equality Australia has been used as a figleaf, so the government can say the LGBTI community were included in the process.

The government may have talked to a few of their favourite queers, but they clearly didn’t listen. They never intended to.

Oppose All Discrimination

Let’s be clear. I am against discrimination of all kinds, including discrimination against people because of their faith. I am in favour of equality.

I think we need to start treating religions rather more equally than we currently do, whatever their size or political clout.

We need to level the playing field: remove the privileges that give religious businesses unfair advantages over non-religious ones. Treat them all equally. Including educational establishments and healthcare operations that are open to the public.

We need to remove religious indoctrination from schools, whether by chaplains, religious instruction (no problem with teaching comparative religions), or religious ownership and control. Indoctrination is the opposite of education. These things breed prejudice and division.

All education ought to be secular, supported by the taxpayer. If people want to teach their children fairy stories, fine, but not on the taxpayer dollar, and not during school time.

Also healthcare, so that people are treated based on medical need and not refused care and treatment based on antiquated superstition.

We need to end the economic privileges of religious institutions, except where they are performing a genuine charitable purpose. We need to stop treating the advancement of religion as a charitable purpose in itself.

I have no problem with religions running their own schools, unsupported by taxpayers dollars, as an adjunct to compulsory secular education, but not as an alternative to it.

And I have no problem with religions running care facilities where clients and staff are required to be co-religionists. But once again, on their own dollar. No taxpayer funding.

Get Up Off Our Knees

In short, I think it’s time to stop playing footsie with the religious right and carry the fight up to them. Get up off our knees and stop making pre-emptive concessions to the ridiculous demands of these pompous and overmighty prelates. And make common cause with people of faith who reject privilege and embrace equality.

A Human Rights Act would remove the massively unbalanced positive discrimination religions currently enjoy and put them on an equal footing with the rest of us. A fair go for all.

Let’s Have Real Equality Australia

A final note. The name of the LGBTI organisation the government most likes to talk to is EQUALITY Australia, is it not? Then EA must start advocating for equality, instead of begging for a little bit more, please sir, like some rainbow Oliver Twist.

EA needs to acknowledge that the government has neither consulted in good faith nor listened to a word they have said, call them out on it, and repudiate any standalone ‘religious privileges’ legislation.

They need to bring together all LGBTI organisations, back PFLAG, and call for the complete scrapping of the current proposals.

And immediately start campaigning for a full, fair, comprehensive Human Rights Act instead.

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)