Wednesday, May 11, 2005

No Marriage, No Civil Unions, Nothing

I realise I sound like a broken record (for those of you born after 1988 who visit my site, that's what they used to record music onto), but the Endless Summer of Fun that is my current work project has again drained me of time and motivation to post properly. So again I'm cheating with my SX column due tomorrow. Ta ta.

A timely reminder this week, amidst heated debate on the merits or shortcomings of the Greens’ state marriage Bill, which queer law reforms should be prioritised and why etc, that, as always, things could be worse.

South Australia’s peak LGBTI lobby group, Let’s Get Equal, this week distributed a media press release commemorating the murder of Dr George Duncan, whose death at (allegedly) the hands SA Vice Squad officers 33 years ago was the catalyst for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in that state. Under the leadership of bisexual Labor premier Don Dunstan (a fan of wearing safari suits and pink shorts to parliament), SA became the most progressive state for gay and lesbian people, indeed perhaps the most progressive state in Australia, period.

Fast-forward thirty years, and the SA of today could not stand in more stark contrast to what it once was. Its reputation as conservative, old-fashioned and boring, while not entirely deserved, is difficult to shake as its population grows older while younger residents flee to the east coast or overseas. As someone who has done this myself, and who has several friends in Sydney and Melbourne who’ve done likewise, I know that, as a youngish gay man, Adelaide just doesn’t have the vibrancy, opportunities and quality of life we take for granted here, especially for its queer community (though this is by no means to downplay the excellent annual Feast festival).

Another impediment to the freedoms of gay and lesbian South Australians is the current state Labor government, whose own right-wing Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, continually delays and stonewalls the legislative reform for which LGE has campaigned so hard and to which Labor is officially committed. Labor was (just) elected to government in early 2002 but a Bill to end discrimination against same-sex couples was not introduced until well over two years later. Labor then unexpectedly re-introduced the Bill into the Legislative Council, where Liberals combined their numbers with conservative independents to further delay the Bill’s passage by unnecessarily referring it to a parliamentary committee for further “consultation”. Now, over three years since their election, LGE still must implore the SA government to catch up with the rest of the country. I’m quite sure the implicit homophobia that underscores Atkinson’s deviousness would make Dunstan turn in his grave, especially given premier Mike Rann’s assertion that his would be a government that would do justice to the memory of the great Labor leader.

New South Wales by contrast has come a long way with its queer law reform and recognition of same-sex couples, despite many opponents. The Greens even introducing a same-sex marriage Bill here, no matter how unlikely it is to become law, would be fantastical in South Australia, not to mention other states and territories. Maybe it’s time to take a moment to remember how lucky we are here.


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