Gay rights in Queensland
This information is written to give you, the reader an insight into what has happened to gay rights in Queensland over the past 2 years. Since the Liberal National Party (LNP) has come to power in Queensland, we have had the most significant roll back of gay rights in the history of the western world.
Below is a simple overview which I hope will help you understand some of the issues concerning same sex attracted couples and their families in this State.
REPEALING CIVIL PARTNERSHIP AND SURROGACY LEGISLATION
The Civil Partnership Act was introduced by the Labor Government in Queensland in November 2011. This legislation gave same-sex couples legal security, respect and affirmation with the option of an official ceremony in their home state.
The LNP chose to vote as a block against the legislation. They lost the vote, complained that it was rushed legislation and promised to repeal this legislation should they win power.
In government, the LNP haven’t completely repealed the legislation. But they have watered it down to such an extent that many couples feel it is similar to registering a car and shows no dignity or respect to the couple.
The Relationship Register, as it is now called in Queensland, is on a par with the NSW Relationship Register, which is the weakest in the country. Very few couples bother to register their relationship because it really has no symbolic meaning or status in the community. Now it is just a matter of signing a form. If the relationship fails couples sign another form and then walk away without repercussion or responsibility.
Several States in Australia have Civil Partnerships or Registers. All have different names, legislation and rules. Most are only effective in the State they were received, and they most certainly are not considered marriage by same-sex couples or their families.
If a couple who have had their relationship registered decide to move interstate they need to re-register their relationship in the state they’ve moved to (with the exception of Tasmania). If you are confused, please consider how confused the couples are. Some couples actually “google” to see what their rights are should they be considering moving interstate.
State based Civil Partnerships are necessary because if the vote for Marriage Equality should fail, it leaves couples with some security. This security involves partners being recognised as next-of-kin and having other legal entitlements as spouses. However, this legislation most certainly is not seen as ideal because civil partnerships don’t have the same status, respect of community and symbolism as marriage.
The vast majority of same sex couples are seeking the right and choice for Marriage Equality because it comes under the federal banner of legislation and is not prone to such upheavals as the varying State schemes, with Queensland being a prime example.
Marriage Equality also means all Australians are under the same laws and same-sex couples can move freely across the country without having to have their relationship officially recognised or registered every time they move interstate. This is something the straight community need never contemplate.
If you would like more information on Marriage Equality please go to www.australianmarriageequality.com.
ISSUES SURROUNDING SURROGACY AND PARENTAL RECOGNITION LEGISLATION
Surrogacy Legislation was passed in February, 2010. This enabled intending parents (irrespective of whether they were a couple or single, gay straight or lesbian), to be parents. Prior to this, surrogacy was illegal.
This new legislation adopted by the Labor Government ensured:
- Birth mothers are known to prospective parents;
- The legislation ensured there was counselling to establish that those involved were capable and suitable and only incurred costs (not babies for profit) for the woman giving birth;
- It was a well considered piece of legislation with a process that was fair.
We need to understand that before the election, Mr. Newman stated that surrogacy laws would not be changed. But within three months of being elected Mr Newman has stated this was a “mistake” and now the LNP are seriously considering changing these laws.
Another concern is that now the lesbian mums who are having babies through IVF will again not be able to have the non-biological partner’s name on the birth certificate.
This leaves the child at risk of being taken from the non-biological mother (eg estranged family members), should the birth mother die or become incapable of caring for the child/children.
Additionally, there is the fear that parent’s names that have been added to birth certificates in the last 2 years will now be removed.
- Some lesbian couples may have both parents’ names on the birth certificates for children already born, but only one name for children born after the change, discriminating between children in the one household.
- For many years there was emotional insecurity for couples. Now there is the concern that repealing this legislation will again cause the insecurity to return.
- This stress is also felt by children who are old enough to understand the implications of what is happening in their family unit.
- The change is out of step with every other state and federally. It will create two tier relationships – those in Queensland, and those everywhere else.
- Even though lesbian partners won’t be allowed to be parents on the birth certificate, if the couple split up they’ll still be a “parent” who has to pay child support.
- The LNP plan to punish those entering into a surrogacy arrangement (by up to 3 years jail), where the intended parents are a gay or lesbian couple, singles, or in a heterosexual de facto relationship of less than 2 years.
- Those who could go to jail are the intended parents, the birth mother, and her partner.
- The proposed surrogacy changes are in breach of Australia’s International Human Rights obligations.
Many of the concerns surrounding same sex couples raising children come through scare mongering, misinformation and lack of contact with these families to see how they actually function.
As parents of lesbian daughters and gay sons we are calling on Queenslanders to stand up for equality. Australia is a free and democratic country and this discrimination is causing great stress in the gay community, leading to depression and lack of hope for many.
What is happening in this State is sending a clear message to our sons and daughters they are second rate and their relationships are not worthy. One in five families has a gay or lesbian loved one, whether they realise it or not. The actions of this present government are not democratic, Christian or for the betterment of this State.
The LNP are continually discussing the need for economic cutbacks, but the steps being taken against our same sex attracted sons and daughters doesn’t save the government or us (the community) a cent. Instead the changes will cost the taxpayer money. Gay and lesbian taxpayers will leave Queensland and move interstate to pursue the dream of parenthood.
Lesbian couples who remain, if they split up, may well argue as to whether the co-parent was a parent or not, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars through the courts – a step that could be avoided by being registered on the birth certificate. So please let your MP know that this isn’t fair or right, and that you want to live in a State that believes in fairness and equality for all.
Below are some blogs that give a brief overview of our concerns…
- LGBT Law Blog
- Debunking Wendy Francis’ e-petition
- How the proposed laws will breach Australia’s human rights record
- Qld Law Society says changes a “miscarriage of justice”
- About the lesbian law changes – Qld being the only state to go backwards on this issue
- Newman and the “mistake”
- How the proposed laws fall foul of the Sex Discrimination Act
- My letter to Bleijie
by Shelley Argent (OAM)
National Spokesperson, PARENTS & FRIENDS OF LESBIANS AND GAYS (PFLAG)
A copy of our advertisement, which appeared in The Courier Mail today (26/07/2012), is shown below.
You can download a hi-res copy of it here.