Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Very Strange Bedfellows

Barry and Jose have been up the North Coast the last few days in an orgy of Smug Couple Mini-Breakiness. So sue me, I'm happy. I mean, Barry's happy.

Anyway, that's why QP postings have been non-existent for the last few days. Today's is my column as I catch up with the work that's piled up in my absence. Or, more accurately, as I catch up on the many means of procrastination I have devised to avoid work that piles up. You get the gist.

The Returned and Services League might be the last organisation one would expect to be an ally of the queer community in the battle for relationship equality.

It certainly came as a shock to me to discover the RSL is supporting federal government law reform that will allow partners of Australian servicemen and women in same-sex relationships to have equal entitlements as heterosexual partners.

Of course, the support is not absolute and the legislative reforms are not comprehensive. The RSL President, Major-General Bill Crews, made clear that his organisation does not champion legal recognition of homosexual relationships – a rather meaningless statement in light of what they’re supporting – and the partnership recognition will still not extend to superannuation, veterans’ affairs pensions and compensation. Crews also believes that this endorsement, resolved by the RSL’s policy advisory group, does not have the broad support of its members.

The reason behind the Howard government’s about-face is somewhat unclear. Perhaps this is a concession to appease the understandable outrage many queer people felt when the government directly acknowledged same-sex couples in legislature solely for the prospect of detaining partners of suspected terrorists, as part of its sweeping anti-terror laws. So long as the government insists on denying same-sex couples legally-defined “spouse” status in federal legislation gaping holes will continue to exist, as such couples must prove the unnecessarily complicated factor of interdependency in their relationship to claim any kinds of benefits.

That said, however, this is a significant gain and another step along the inevitable, if painfully protracted, path of full legal recognition of same-sex couples in Australia.

Not to downplay the hard work of campaigners within the Australian Defence Force to raise this issue and provide a solution, but one can only assume the government would not have committed to this reform without the RSL’s blessing. Perhaps due to generational change, the RSL now does not appear so resistant to queer sexuality as it would have been under the leadership of the extremist former President Bruce Ruxton.

Or maybe this is just a case of a group of reasonably intelligent people adopting a common sense position. When irrelevant and harmful rhetoric is removed from the debate, the principle of same-sex couples seeking equal rights is not difficult to grasp or even endorse. It has nothing to do with the imposition of an unhealthy lifestyle, or undermining the sanctity of marriage, or threatening The Family, or any other of the hysterical catchphrases churned out by our more militant opponents.

If the RSL is prepared to see past these smokescreens, why won’t our government?


At 25/10/05 4:46 pm, Blogger Ron said...

RSL actually stands for 'Returned and Services League', Sam.

At 25/10/05 5:05 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Oop - duly changed. Thanks Ron.

At 25/10/05 5:51 pm, Blogger JahTeh said...

Before eveyone gets all warm and fuzzy about this I think it's just a cynical move to make sure the Defence Forces keep their expensively trained personnal. I can't recall the desertion rates for America at the moment but it's thousands above enlistment figures.

At 26/10/05 12:37 pm, Blogger Ron said...

Having served in the Army and the Air Force reserves for many years, I can't for the life of me imagine coming out in the services AND having a partner living in service housing - you'd have to be very big and very strong (physically and mentally).

At 26/10/05 4:47 pm, Anonymous David said...

Ron - I have to disagree. I'm an Army officer who's been 'out' at work and to all my colleagues for over ten years, and I've had absolutely no problems with homophobia in all that time. While I'm not physically big I guess that having been an infantryman for over half my career has helped. :)

My partner of 13 years regularly comes to functions at the officers' mess, comes to see me at work and goes to work social functions. All that time we've lived in service-funded housing, although he's only been seen as my flatmate, rather than as my Defence-recognised partner.

At 26/10/05 5:12 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Barry and Jose have been up the North Coast the last few days in an orgy of Smug Couple Mini-Breakiness. So sue me, I'm happy. I mean, Barry's happy.

VOMIT! Not because I'm filled with envy or anything...

At 27/10/05 7:26 am, Blogger Ron said...


Your army experience is great to read: it is good to know that army life has moved with the times.

I think your experience probably mirrors Aussie society today as a whole. The real homophobia exists in the minds of His Darkness Howard and the Walking-Dead Ruddock.

I still have to admit, I am surprised at this ADF move. I never saw it as a mover and shaker of social advancement.

At 27/10/05 2:02 pm, Anonymous Ted said...

As a former naval officer ( for over 15 years) I was taken rather by surprise, too, by this move.
It is perhaps more difficult in the navy as I was away for long periods of time. For seven years I did have a partner but we decided it was too much trouble to keep martialling a facade fore the benefit of those who couldn't cope. The senior ranks were by and large less fazed by people's orientation, and were much more intent on enabling peoiple to do a good job. As I worked in intelligence for most of the time, and did a fairly decent job I had little trouble.
They (rightly in my opinion) had little time for the temperamental queens who were more intent on making a fuss about their gayness than about doing their job. They were few and far between I might add.

In the end, I want defence personell who will be able to defend not assert sexual equality. And no, they are not the same thing!!


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