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I'm still finding my feet in my new world having only been out for a relatively short period of about 10 months.  But I have emailed a few politicians (a new thing for me) on homophobia and equal love.  One of them is my local Federal MP, Mr Nick Champion. Here's the correspondence so far - nothing brilliant but just me having my first go supporting an issue that is important to me.

 

On the 12th of May 2011, I sent an email to Nick Champion, Member for Wakefield.  The email said:

 

 

"Tuesday May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia. This is a day on which people of all status can make a stand, according to their capacity, against the discrimination and ignorance that is still directed toward the LGBTI community. As my local representative in the Federal Parliament, I hope you will make a public stand on this matter and tell the constituents of your electorate that you do not support such bigotry. Please lend your voice to those who speak out in support of letting people love whom they choose without fear of hatred and reprisals. We have come such a long way - please help us continue this journey to equality."

 

In a letter dated the 16th of May 2011, I received the following response from Mr Champion:

 

"Thank you for your email dated 12 May 2011.

The Government believes that the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act is appropriate.  This is Labor Party Policy, decided by the National Conference.  Any change to this position will have to be considered by the Australian Labor Party National Conference later on this year.

While not supporting same-sex marriage, the Gillard Government supports a nationally consistent framework for rellationship recognition to be implemented by the States and Territories.  Victoria, ACT, NSW and Tasmania have established relationship recognition schemes and relationships recognised under these schemes are now recognised in a wide range of Commonwealth laws.  The Government will continue to encourage other jurisdictions to develop such schemes.

The Government's commitment to removing discrimination was demonstrated by its reforms to remove discrimination from 85 Commonwealth laws.  These reforms, which passed in 2009, remove discrimination and equalised treatment for same-sex couples in areas of taxation, social security, health, aged care, superannuation, immigration, child support and family law. These reforms extend to same-sex couples the same entitlements and obligations that apply to opposite sex couples.  Equal treatment means some same-sex couples will get access to benefits they could not previously access.

 

Please contact my office if I can assist with any other Federal matter."

 

On 30 May 2011, I sent another email to Mr Champion and it said:

 

 

"I am grateful for, though somewhat bemused by, your response, dated 16 May 2011, to an earlier email of mine concerning homophobia and equal love.

 My interpretation of your response leaves me unsure as to what your position really is?

What I read is this.

 

 Firstly, the Gillard Government believes that the discrimination against same-sex couples enshrined in the Marriage Act is appropriate as this is current Labor Party policy.

 Secondly, the Gillard Government actually doesn't really object to same-sex couples being recognised as long as it’s done by other jurisdictions and actually will encourage those jurisdictions to develop schemes that deal with this matter.

 Thirdly, the Gillard Government is really against discrimination and has actually demonstrated this by legislative changes to remove discrimination from 85 Commonwealth laws.

 The contradiction between the first and third positions is confusing. While the Labor Government deserves positive and appropriate recognition for the legislative changes that have been made, it astonishes me that the Gillard Government can still publically support a position that fundamentally still says we think it is right to discriminate against a group in society on the basis of who those people love.

To then mention encouraging “other jurisdictions” as a means of dealing with the issue merely says to me that the Gillard Government is not prepared to take the political risk it perceives to exist should it support the ethically correct position of removing the discriminatory elements of the Marriage Act.  I understand I am demonstrating my political naivety when I ask whether it is possible these days for politicians to stand up for what is right even if it is only for a relatively small group of people.  Or is everything only done because of the “numbers”?

 

In an effort to interpret your letter in an entirely positive light, could I take it that the demonstrated efforts of the Gillard Government to eliminate discrimination, against same-sex couples, from Federal legislation will be continued by its support for changes to Labor policy on this issue at the imminent National Conference and subsequently in amendments to the Marriage Act?

 

Thank you for considering this for me."

 

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Comment by Andre Stoffels on May 31, 2011 at 20:51

Thanks Sophie.

I want to see the good in people but the actions of our politicians remind me too much of the things I saw when I watched the Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister series.  Whenever Jim Hacker's were praised as being "courageous" he backed off very quickly suspecting a political backlash.  Our politicians too seem to run for cover whenever they are confronted with a courageous decision no matter how morally or ethically correct it may be.  I don't want to be cynical but it is hard not to feel that way when you see their actions in regard to this gay marriage issue.  Where is the logic in eliminating  90% of the discrimination in Federal legislation but leave this one bit in the Marriage Act. Unfortunately the political logic is that seemingly more voices have been heard supporting the status quo than voices for change.  The politicians don't believe that they are safe changing it.  Their fear about keeping their seats is greater than their belief in doing what is right.  Our failure lies in not getting enough voices to speak out for the change.  This makes your concern about a national civil union scheme more real for it gives them a way of appeasing their consciences without taking a risk - be it real or imagined.  I guess it just means that if it is important enough to us as individuals we just have to keep doing whatever we can to fight for the cause.

I confess this is a strange experience for me.  Twice married and free to do so because I did the accepted thing.  Now, though I remain the same person in essence, I am suddenly not able to exercise those same rights because I have had the temerity to admit that in my heart I know I really need to be with a man rather than a woman.  Uttering the words "I'm gay" has sent me from an "insider" to an "outsider" in a heartbeat.  What a strange yet wonderful world we live in.

 

Comment by Sophie Pointer on May 31, 2011 at 20:20

Great reply Andre :-)

 

My local MP is Jamie Briggs and our face-to-face conversation was a  lot more refreshing that the 'form letter' responses you get from the labor party members despite the policy agenda of the libs! When it comes down to a conscience vote, and I think it will, we will see who the real homophobes are. My fear though is that the vote will not be about marriage per se but some sort of national civil union scheme which will allow the homophobes to remain hidden as they protect their precious marriage act from us unsuitable gays.

 

Sophie

Comment by Rainbow Family Tree on May 30, 2011 at 23:23

This is an awesome and articulate response to the kind of 'please shush up' e:mails and comments we are so used to receiving... I'm meeting my local Federal Liberal Minister in a couple of weeks and plan to show him 'Marriage is so Gay!'... I'm looking forward to reporting his response and feel better armed with the clarifications/arguments you put forth!

The Australian Marriage Equality site has got a whole 'how to page' on taking action that's also worth checking out...

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