Friday, 29 December 2017

My submission to the inquiry into "religious freedom"



This is my submission to the inquiry they are embarking on into religions freedom. I would like to mention it's very personal, but for very good reason. The religious freedom inquiry is a reaction from the far right of the gov after marriage equality passed the parliament; it would never have happened otherwise. Therefore it's an attack on LGBT Australians across the country, including David and I. We don't want Australian states to have their anti-discrimination laws protecting David and I overruled by federal law that says we can be refused service by commercial businesses on the grounds of their religious beliefs to our sexuality.  
 Hello panel of the religious freedoms review,
I and my partner are a gay couple in eastern Sydney who both have HIV. We have been together for over 5 years now, fell in love straight away and been wanting to get married for some years now. I personally have paid close attention to the marriage equality process where our existence and lives were discussed almost casually in public national forums. Although marriage equality eventually passed the parliament it came at a very high price for the LGBT community. For some of us the pain generated by the postal survey will be with us for years to come. Some LGBT have called it the worst time of their lives. I'm sure some thought of suicide during it; likely young LGBT as it turns out in western Sydney where a block of 12 electorates voted no. That issue alone needs to be addressed with ongoing support for young LGBT in western Sydney and educational programs among the cultural diversity about the demonisation of us during the postal survey. Tony Abbott himself even spoke at the western Sydney Maronite christian church at a mass meeting of theirs, some of the congregantes being the ones that vandalised gay Sydney murals in eastern Sydney's Newtown after the Yes vote won.

In short the LGBT are on their ass at the moment still trying to pick ourselves up after the venom that was released by the postal survey. Both my partner David and I have been affected by the idea of even the haters of us "having their say" about our lives and our love. I wouldn't wish such a thing on my worst enemy. I was particularly affected out of the two of us as at 55 I have a very thick skin and would often enter discussion online. However even I was surprised at the level of shear hate against us. The worst of it was a reply to me under an Australian Christian Lobby video of Lyle Shelton opposing marriage equality because of his christian views. In another ACL video someone that agreed with me got a reply of a death threat. After that the ACL didn't allow comments anymore on it's YouTube videos.

This is what we've gone through just to get equal rights with the rest of society. We have suffered discrimination for decades and had to fight against it every step of the way. Only to have that hatred and discrimination thrown at us all over again at the marriage equality hurdle put in front of us by this gov. Scott Morison says he's had enough of religion being disrespected and mocked, and he even calls that "discrimination" putting it on the same par as LGBT discrimination. What an insult to all LGBT people who have had loved ones lose their lives over the years because of discrimination with much of their local community against them! David's first partner was murdered in a horrific gay hate crime, Wayne Tonks. How dare religion talks to us about their so called "discrimination"; they don't know the meaning of the word. Religion is an idea created by man; a belief system if you will. Being gay is simply who we are; it's not our belief system but the core of our being.

David and I have personally suffered discrimination and had to take legal action to address the issues. David suffered discrimination in the health profession (he's a nurse by trade) in an Healthscope private hospital in Sydney when nurses became aware he was HIV positive. Believe it or not most of the discrimination against HIV Australians happen in the health profession. He took legal action through the ACON legal centre and ended up in the NSW anti-discrimination board in a conciliation process facing off against the directer of the hospital. With NSW anti-discrimination laws on his side the director had no choice but to capitulate. He won some lost wages but not much. The point being he won against a multinational corporation and it was a miracle he did so. All because of Australian law that protected him. BTW the discrimination event was so damaging to David that he hasn't worked since. He became my carer as I'm on the Disability Support Pension for too many reasons for me to go in to here. David being discriminated against affected him that deeply, despite the psychological treatment and medication he gets. That's what real discrimination does to people. It doesn't simply offend them, it destroys them.

I also had an episode of discrimination. In fact it was in the heart of gay Sydney at the Oxford Hotel at Taylor Square, you know, across the road from the big gay flag flying and the big corner of the Sydney gay and lesbian Mardi Gras. David and I thought we'd have a drink there before getting a taxi home. I lost interest after the bouncer became negative (neither of us had had too much to drink and we could have stayed where we were and got more drinks) and I started walking away calling David. Long story short the bouncer told David when I was out of earshot "You can come in but I'm not letting that fag in" referring to me. We again ended up communicating with the NSW anti-discrimination board over this. It took some months but we finally got a groveling apology from management over the incident after much denial, with the bouncer being fired from both the pub and the security company he worked for. I communicated with gay Sydney state MP Alex Greenwich about the whole thing along the way who was surprised that such a thing could happen in this day and age on Oxford St in the heart of gay Sydney, but the fact of the matter is simply that it did, in 2016.

I say this because the simple facts are that LGBT still suffer discrimination in Australia, even though it's against the law. The burden appears to always fall on us to take action when such discrimination happens, even now in 2017. Any unwinding of Australia's state anti-discrimination laws would bring untold grief and despair to LGBT across the nation. To give commercial businesses the right to not serve us because the bible would be both unthinkable and a tragedy for our human rights.

I ask that you consider that our society is a secular one and not one ruled by theocracy. That secularism is what provides religion with freedom of religion. I ask you consider that the rights of any minority are equal to the rights of any religious institution. I ask that you consider David and I in your deliberations. I ask that you consider humanity, and not just that of churches.

We're tired and wounded. We're not dangerous. To religion or anyone. We're no threat to society's foundations. We're just people like you are. We just want to live our lives and be with who we love. Religious folk can still have their religion, that's not any of our concern.