A lot of attention is being given to gay rights at the moment. Issues such as marriage equality and reducing discriminatory are enjoying widespread attention.
It’s great to see that gay rights are (finally) at the forefront of many people’s minds. But what happens when gay rights go backwards?
Gay Rights – Going, Going, Gone!
I live in Queensland, Australia. A conservative state government came into power last year. One of the first things they did after being elected was to set the gay rights movement backwards. That’s right, as the rest of the world is inching towards achieving gay rights and full equality for the gay community, Queensland has the distinction of being one of the only (if not the only) place in the world to be going backwards.
Civil unions which were previously introduced by the former government were scrapped by the new, current government. In their place is something called a relationship register. Which on the one hand is convenient. It means I can register my dog and my relationship at the same time – and both mean about as much. While civil unions weren’t marriage, they were at least a whole lot better than a relationship register. The kicker is that for couples who had been ‘civil unioned’ before the change came into effect, their civil union is automatically scrapped and replaced with recognition under the relationship register.
Here’s the official wording from the Queensland state government website: “For couples that had registered a civil partnership under the Civil Partnerships Act 2011, legal recognition will continue through the provisions of the Relationships Act 2011 as an official registered relationship.” Awww, how nice of them.
As awful as this legislation is, especially the way it was handled by the government who forcibly ejected people out of the chambers when it was put to a vote, it’s also unusual because I think that for gay people in Queensland, it’s left us feeling a bit, well odd. The normal process for any oppressed group is that equal rights are generally hard fought and won in small steps. Isn’t that how it goes? I don’t really know how to feel when gay rights are taken away. I’m sure this has happened in political and activist movements before, but it’s left me with some really strange feelings.
Shame, Embarrassment, Fear
Was I (and we as a community) getting ahead of ourselves? There’s a fear that this might just be the first step in the wrong direction. Maybe the tide is going to turn against us now? Are gay rights just a fad? I mean, how could a government that we elected do this, if we as a society supposedly support gay rights? Do we…do we really? Or are gay rights just the ‘in’ thing right now? People are all talk, but when it comes to taking action, they’re nowhere to be found.
There’s also a sense of shame and embarrassment. This legislation has turned us into a laughing stock within our own country. It may seem superficial, but it does hurt to be judged personally by the actions of a government. I’d never had first hand experience of that, but in our travels to Melbourne last year, we experienced it. People would say things like “Wow, I didn’t know cool people came from Queensland”, or “You seem pretty smart and together – for a Queenslander.”
That’s why every gay rights victory, no matter where it happens in the world, is one to be celebrated. These victories give hope, even if it literally happens a world away. And I hope that we look back on this time and this legislation as a historical anomaly, a final stumbling block before real and genuine gay rights are attained. Because as Hilary Clinton so eloquenty said, “Gay rights are human rights. And human rights are gay rights.” Amen to that!