Monday, 29 August 2016

Tasmania's bitter debate over gays that destroyed lives - 1990's

Rodney Croome
Recently the leader of Australian Marriage Equality (AME) Rodney Croome resigned as head for the sole purpose of campaigning against the proposed plebiscite. The leader of the AME is now Alex Greenwich BTW. To a casual observer this may appear nothing of note, but it's anything but.

Rodney Croome has been a proponent of gay rights for many years, in particular marriage equality in Australia. If anyone wants marriage equality it's him. So that reason alone makes it notable that he's taken the drastic step of quitting AME to try and stop the plebiscite.

To understand his passion against this you have to go back to, what was evidently, a terrible few years in Tasmania in the '90's, where gayys kept pushing to have homosexuality decriminalised (yes it was the 1990's). By all accounts the struggle was a bitter shit fight in the public sphere. Gay lives were ruined and some took their lives because they couldn't deal with the hate anymore.

Croome wrote about this at The Drum in 2011:
The debate about decriminalising homosexuality in Tasmania was the most divisive, bitter and damaging of its kind in Australian history.

It involved the mass arrests of gay rights supporters, large anti-gay rallies, and the mobilisation of thousands of people on both sides.

Over nine years five bills were angrily rejected in the state's Upper House with MPs calling for gays to be "tracked down and wiped out".

The United Nations, the Federal Government and the High Court were drawn into the fight.

There was even a national boycott of Tasmanian products.

Our reputation for bigotry was deeply embarrassing for many Tasmanians and was held partly responsible by prominent economists for a decline in tourism, immigration and investment.

Worse, families and communities were torn apart by the issue.

Some families will always be scarred by the gay law reform debate because the hatred was too much for some young Tasmanians to bear and they took their own lives.

All the Labor MPs who spoke so movingly in favour of equality during Wednesday's debate lived through our dark past and almost all referenced it.

They all witnessed the immense pain and trauma caused by discriminatory laws and the prejudice that feeds off them.

They all heard, ad nauseam, the hysterical fear-mongering that seems to accompany every attempt to provide same-sex attracted people with respect and equality. The Drum
Homosexuality was finally decriminalised in 1997 in Tasmania. 

Now it's 2016, and the Abbott/Turnbull gov is saying that Australia needs to have a national debate on marriage equality. Because Turnbull hasn't the back bone to give the party a free vote on the issue. A coward's way forward.

Croome has recently written about this after leaving the AME and his reasons for being so rigidly against a plebiscite. 

We've seen the sort of bile that the Australian Christian Lobby produces, which will go around in the public space during a plebiscite, the most recent of this being that gays were Nazi's. And the ACL isn't the only christian hatemongers out there. 

Croome goes back to his experiences in Tasmania to give his most personal of reasons to oppose the plebiscite:
The other reason I have shifted to work against a plebiscite is deeply personal. 

In the mid 1990s, at the height of the bitter and divisive debate about decriminalising homosexuality in Tasmania, a young gay man, Nick Donovan, found himself in a quandary. 

Nick had bought a one-way ticket to Melbourne because he could no longer bear the anti-gay hate. But neither could he leave his family, his friends and the place that gave his life meaning. 

The night before he was due to leave he took his own life. 

We know what he was thinking because he wrote about it in his suicide note. 

At the time, I was busy trying to move decriminalisation forward by making submissions to the United Nations, lobbying state MPs, advocating in the media and speaking to community groups. There is a part of me that will always fear I was too distracted by all this lobbying and advocacy, and that I didn’t do enough to protect vulnerable people such as Nick. 

He is a splinter in my bloodstream that has finally reached my heart. 
If there is a plebiscite, and when the first gay kid dies at his own hand because of the hate and fear-mongering, I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know I did everything I could to stop it … everything. The Guardian
Me and David :)
For myself I was very happy when the Greens announced they would vote against it. Personally, it felt like the claws of the ACL and the like were being pulled away. After all, it's the christian hatemongers who want the plebiscite and who are complaining about anti-discrimination laws in arguing against marriage equality. Champing at the bit to stick the knife in to us dastardly LGBT who offend them by our very existence.

Again, the gov tries to dictate that the only way forward on marriage equality is through a plebiscite, and if the plebiscite doesn't go ahead there won't be gay marriage any time soon. In essence they're telling us some of us must have our lives ruined or die if we want marriage equality sooner than later. Despicable.

To me there is no choice. How much is even one life worth? Are we supposed to step over a dead body walking down the aisle?