Monday, 13 February 2017

Please help Pride Munyonyo

On Valentines Day, it's good to focus on those who are doing it tough. There are probably few LGBTI people doing it as tough as the LGBTI people in Uganda.

While homosexuality amongst men has remained criminalised in much of Africa, and gay men are blamed for the spread of Aids, Uganda is in a league of its own. In 2014 the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 was passed- making engaging in homosexual acts punishable by life imprisonment. This was seen as a relatively good outcome- because until the Western media had called it "Kill the Gays Bill", and it was widely condemned, the penalty for engaging in homosexual acts was the death penalty.

Somehow, a few very brave souls have started a resource centre for LGBTI people, especially young people. My heart goes out to them and their bravery. They are putting their lives and freedom on the line. This centre is Pride Munyonyo Resource Center. Munyonyo is a suburb of the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

If you are able to, please donate to them. I am sure they can use every cent they can get.

Here is their webpage, which has a button to help donate.

Here is their Linkedin page.

No matter how bad we think we have it in Australia, they have it much worse. Any help they can get will be of much needed assistance.

We hold hands, they point fingers and throw stares

A week and a half ago, my husband Mitch and I were walking home- and copped "faggots" from a  complete stranger. This happens too often.  It shouldn't have happened at all. It is certainly not the worst we have been called. It happened to be the night of the 30th anniversary of my admission as a solicitor.

I put up a two or three line comment about it on Facebook- and over 200 Facebook friends responded, and over 150 comments. Next thing you know, I was asked by the editor of Brisbane times to write an article, in time for Valentines Day. Here it is.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

South Australian shadow Attorney-General calls for commercial surrogacy

The South Australian Deputy Opposition Leader, and shadow Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman, has called for commercial surrogacy to be legalised, to minimise the number of intended parents going to develpoing countries for surrogacy. She did this in a debate about reform of that State's IVF and surrogacy laws so that they are non-discriminatory.

Ms Chapman said:

"We are not dealing with all the issues that go to surrogacy in this bill, and I think that is a shame. I think we need to, and the sooner we do the better. My personal view is that to do it we are going to have to actually except the fact that if we are going to ask a female person to undertake this role and responsibility—which is a major sacrifice—then a fee ought to be able to be paid for that purpose. Otherwise, couples in Australia will continue to go to other countries, exploit other people, pay the fee and not be required to sign up to levels of responsibility that I think we should insist on here.
Let us make that an area of reform that we do address, and that we do try to make sure we protect women in exploitable circumstances in other countries, that we do not allow a situation to prevail in Australia where it is prohibitive for many to undertake this role, just to be repaid their expenses.

I remember that when I was in early adulthood sometimes my sisters—and I have plenty of them—would say to me, 'What would you do in this situation? If one of us couldn't have children would you have a baby for us?' As a sister I said I would, I would do that; if I were fertile (which I happened to be) then that would be something I would do. It was a personal commitment, but not everyone has an available sibling or friend who is prepared to do that.
I think it is important that we have a chance to have control over the terms and conditions the women are in so that they are not exploited, so that the children who are born are protected against circumstances of either abandonment or exploitation. It is time we addressed that. I know it is very hard to get things through without government approval supporting things in this parliament, because it has to go through two houses of parliament, but we do try—and I have a list of bills tomorrow for private member's bills. Every now and again we get one up, but the point is that we do need the government's blessing.
In an area of comprehensive reform such as this, I think it is a missed opportunity for the government to fix it. It is well known. It is an issue that other jurisdictions are starting to deal with, but it seems that the government has had a bit of a hands-off approach to this, other than dealing with a certain group in the community who are seeking status and recognition, which of course is our LGBTIQ community—not unimportant, but it is not the only thing that needs to be fixed. We do need to address this matter."

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

South Australia pauses before making IVF and surrogacy law non-dscriminatory

Moves to remove discrimination in South Australia against LGBTI couples and singles in family formation law have taken a pause. The Weatherill government introduced the Relationships Register Bill to get rid of a whole bunch of discrimination against LGBTI couples and singles, including in IVF and surrogacy, as I posted last month.

However, it is not to be- at least for the moment. The Government successfully managed to get the Relationships Register Bill through both Houses- but there was a bit missing: all the bits related to IVF and surrogacy have been removed. It turns out, the Government decided to split the Bill- so these reforms appear to be still on track- but not quite yet. Hopefully they won't be long.

SA to set up a relationships register

Following action by the Weatherill government, South Australia has reviewed its laws concerning LGBTI people, resulting in the passing of a bill to set up a relationships register in South Australia. The relationships register, to commence at a date to be proclaimed, will bring SA into line with Qld, NSW, ACT, Victoria and Tasmania, which also have relationship registers.

Having a registered relationship can have a major impact on legal issues for a couple. If they split up, for example, then this means it is beyond doubt that at some stage they were in a de facto relationship- potentially saving many tens of thousands of dollars arguing in the Family Law Courts about whether they were or were not in a de facto relationship. Passing this law is a good move.

South Australia to allow same sex couples and singles to adopt

The South Australian Parliament has passed a law which will mean that single people and same sex couples will, for the first time, be allowed in that State to adopt.

Until about a year ago, four Australian jurisdictions prohibited same sex couples from adopting:

  • Victoria
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Northern Territory
Since then, Victoria and Queensland have passed laws removing that discrimination. South Australia's law is to commence on a date to be fixed.

Only the Northern Territory is not changing its laws, and will for the foreseeable future continue to discriminate in this area.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Gay Aussie couples should reconsider surrogacy in Texas

Australians have ventured far and wide across the US to undertake surrogacy, not remaining content in California- going from Oregon in the west to Minnesota int he mid west,  Massachusetts in the north-east, and Tennessee and Florida in the south- and apparently most places in between.

One of the places that Aussies have been more interested in in recent times has been Texas. It's cheaper for surrogacy and seems to be well run. It has until now provided relative certainty. Texan attorneys have told me that if you are gay and married, then following the US Supreme Court case that legalised gay marriage across the US in 2015, Texas welcomed you with open arms.

I am now of the view that gay Aussies should pause before they consider going to Texas. This is aside from the obvious issue that in several parts of Australia it is a criminal offence to undertake commercial surrogacy overseas.

Why I've formed this view is because of a challenge currently under way in the  Supreme Court of Texas. That court a week ago has allowed a case to progress where there is a challenge to the rights of gay and lesbian married Texans. The challenge isn't to their being married, but whether they should have the same rights as heterosexual married couples. Essentially it is argued that gay and lesbian married couples shouldn't have the same rights as heterosexual married couples.

The US National LGBT Bar Association has raised concerns about the possible impact of the Texan case.

The fact that the case is being openly considered speaks volumes as to the current climate in Texas and means that gay married couples, who might rely upon Texas surrogacy law to become parents there, have to reconsider whether that is a good choice. if the Texas Supreme Court upholds the challenge, then it is expected that there will be a series of court cases about the issue- while the law in Texas on the point remains uncertain. In the meantime, gay married couples, in my view should reconsider going to Texas for surrogacy. To do otherwise might be to invite a lot of trouble.