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Offended by love?

By Lyn Allison - posted Wednesday, 8 August 2007

It appears our prime minister is offended by same-sex love. Mr Howard’s reluctance to remove the inequalities in federal laws for same-sex couples goes well beyond an attempt to preserve the “sanctity” of marriage and, we might assume, is rooted in his conservative Christian beliefs.

Or is it? He may well support the Bible’s proscription of “homosexuality”, but it’s more likely to do with winning votes - or at least not losing them - than with staying in God’s good books.

The major parties have to date seen pro-gay stances as political suicide. Perhaps some politicians have feared that, heaven forbid, the public might mistake them as gay if they made the case for equal rights.


But isn’t this now a bit dated? Hasn’t the rainbow flag, at long last, swept across our collective consciousness and enlightened us all?

Not, it seems, in the Parliament, where those who rail against abortion are also the ones sickened, or at least confused, by the idea of gay love - or gay sex, to be more accurate.

But I think and I hope that most of us now accept - as in the words of many a school counsellor - that it’s OK to be gay. If I’m right, it would follow that the majority of Australians approve of efforts to remove anti-gay elements from federal law.

Our peak human rights body, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, recently launched the final report of its inquiry into financial and work-related discrimination against same-sex couples under Commonwealth laws.

The Commission found that 58 separate laws deny people in same-sex relationships the same entitlements as people in heterosexual relationships - a fact that will come as a surprise to many, and one that should bring shame on us all.

The discrimination includes the denial of benefits relating to Medicare, superannuation, military pensions, welfare and taxation. There can be no justification for this.


People’s natural right to equality is being breached, and the efficiency and effectiveness of our government bodies are being compromised, because of elected representatives’ bigoted and old-fashioned views.

The Australian Democrats will, next week, introduce a private bill sponsored by all four of our senators that would achieve that aim. Securing its enactment shouldn’t be difficult, but I fear it’ll prove Herculean.

And that’s odd, to say the least, because our demand is and has only ever been equality. Neither my party nor any rights lobby has ever sought special privileges for gay people.

Our rationality should tell us, loud and clear like a rainbow flag, that love and diversity deserve our celebration, not our rejection or fear - and that same-sex-attracted people can love and be loved in the same way as anyone else.

Brave politicians will acknowledge these truths and act accordingly. But I fear our prime minister is a coward. And I fear the Opposition is, too.

I ask my fellow parliamentarians this question: How, in this age, can the battle for equality still be so far from won?

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About the Author

Lyn Allison is a patron of the Peace Organisation of Australia and was leader of the Australian Democrats from 2004 to 2008.

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