This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Sydney Mardis Gras as part of the international Gay Solidarity Celebrations, which grew as a result of the Stonewall riots in New York.
The first march on 24th June, 1978 was met with police violence. Today Pride marches and festival events across Australia are widely attended in the hundreds of thousands. Despite the commercial gloss and sponsorship in some queer festivals across Australia this month, homophobia and heterosexism is far from over.
There is still a long way to go for the community to achieve some of the recognition of heterosexual couples. Most Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people face discrimination and abuse on a daily basis. ‘Gay bashing’ is still a real concern for LGBTI people with abuse and violence on the streets continuing.
LGBTI high school students have one of the worst situations. The most common site for homophobic bullying and abuse is schools. This remains the most dangerous place for young people to be with 74% of all the abuse happening there. A recent study found homophobic bullying is the most widespread form of abuse in schools!
Physical abuse ranges from having clothes and possessions damaged to rape and hospitalisation for injuries. It is still the case that gay youth are 4 times more likely than their non-gay counterparts to have attempted suicide, and that nearly one-third of LGBTI students drop out of high school.
While there have been some exemplary practices in a handful of progressive inner-city schools, this has not occurred on a national level. We need to ensure that there are specific policies in all schools to tackle homophobia in our education system, just as there are currently specific anti-racism and gender policies.
In Australia, there are still some 58 discriminatory laws against the LGBTI people. Certainly in Howard’s Australia, our community faced 11 years of homophobic policies. The question is will the new ALP government size up to its election promise to repeal these laws identified in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s report as discriminating against same-sex de facto couples, in areas such as taxation, health, migration, superannuation, veteran’s entitlements and family law.
While Rudd has pledged ALP support for relationship recognition in the form of state-based relationship registers, a Rudd government does not support legislation to allow same sex marriages or anything that quote “mimics marriage which may undermine the current laws as defining marriage between and man and woman”. It’s no surprise that no promise was made to repeal the ban on same-sex marriage, introduced by the Labor Party along with the Liberal Party in 2004. Labor’s policy regarding the Marriage Act is identical to the previous coalition, and Rudd himself, an active Christian, has repeatedly said he does not support gay marriage.
ALP support for state based registers is welcome, and would be a real achievement for the LGBTI movement. Kevin Rudd has recently given the ACT the green light to enact Australia’s first same-sex civil union laws, although this will not happen without a series of watered-down amendments.
The LGBTI community deserves something more than a state-based relationship register to have our relationships recognised as equal. Labor’s promises on de facto equality need to be implemented as soon as possible to end the day-to-day financial and legal discrimination faced by lesbians and gays.
The Socialist Party fights for an end to all discrimination. We call for an end to discrimination and homophobia in our schools and workplaces. We support full rights for LGBTI couples and the recognition of same sex domestic partnerships and marriages in law on an equal level with heterosexual couples. While celebrating the culture, creativity and successes of the LGBTI community this year, we also need to recognise there is a long way to go in the fight for equality.
By Socialist Party reporters