Wednesday, 30 April 2008

International reaction to Rudd changes

Pink news from the UK has reported that the proposed changes announced by the Rudd Government, while welcome, still deny same sex couples in Australia the right to marriage or civil union, unlike 20 overseas countries, such as Colombia, Slovenia, France, Germany, New Zealand and the UK.

Thanks, Guys

In recent weeks I have been flattered to have been interviewed by various media outlets about same sex legal issues, the most recent being for JJJ, the Sydney Star Observer, and The Courier-Mail.

The more publicity there is about the lack of equal rights, the higher the chances there will be equal rights.

Thanks guys for reading the blog!

Rudd to remove same sex discrimination (except marriage)

Legislation to remove same-sex discrimination from a wide range of Commonwealth laws will be introduced in the Winter Sittings of Parliament, Commonwealth Attorney-General Robert McClelland said today.

“The Rudd Government is delivering on its election commitment to remove discrimination against people in same-sex relationships from a wide range of Commonwealth laws and programs,” Mr McClelland said. This long-overdue reform follows the landmark report of HREOC, Same-Sex: Same Entitlements, which focussed on financial and work-related legislation, and identified 58 pieces of legislation that discriminated.

On coming to office, the Rudd Government commissioned an audit of Commonwealth laws, which identified 100 pieces of legislation that were discriminatory.

“The changes will provide for equality of treatment under a wide range of Commonwealth laws between same-sex and opposite-sex de facto couples. Importantly the reforms will also ensure children are not disadvantaged because of the structure of their family,” Mr McClelland said.

Areas where discrimination will be removed include tax, superannuation, social security, health, aged care, veterans’ entitlements, workers’ compensation, employment entitlements, and other areas of Commonwealth administration.

The Rudd Government will begin introducing legislation in the Winter Sittings of Parliament. Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson has said that he will support the legislation.

Most reforms will commence soon after the legislation is passed. In some areas (such as social security, tax and veterans’ affairs), the reforms will be phased-in to allow time for couples to adjust their finances, and for administrative arrangements to be implemented. All of the changes are expected to be implemented by mid-2009.

“In keeping with the election commitment, the changes do not alter marriage laws. They will make a practical difference to the everyday lives of a group of our fellow Australians who have suffered discrimination under Commonwealth laws for far too long,” Mr McClelland said.

Mr McClelland refused to commit in a press conference today that anyone would be worse off.

Here is part of the transcript of that conference:

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Thanks for coming along.

Today I'm announcing that the Rudd Government is
delivering on its election commitment to introduce
legislation to remove same sex discrimination from
a wide range of Commonwealth laws.
This will be introduced in the winter sittings of
parliament. It will deliver on our election
commitment. It's long overdue. And it will make a
practical difference to the everyday lives of a group
of our fellow Australians who have been
discriminated against for far too long.
This long overdue reform follows from the
landmark report of the Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission, titled Same Sex Same
Entitlements, which focused on financial and work
related legislation.

It identified some 58 Acts of Federal Parliament
that required amendment; an audit of
Commonwealth laws has identified some 100 laws
that in fact require attention.
On coming to office, we commissioned that audit,
and have progressed the reforms consistently with
our election commitments.
The changes will provide for equality of treatment
under a wide range of areas, including
superannuation, taxation, social security, workers
compensation, pharmaceutical benefits - again,
these will make a practical difference to the lives of
a group of fellow Australians who for far too long
have suffered discrimination at a Commonwealth
level.
It will also ensure that, from the point of view of
Australia, we now complete the picture -
discrimination on the basis of sexuality has long
been removed from State and Territory laws, and
this will complete the picture by introducing long
overdue reforms to remove discrimination from
Commonwealth laws.

QUESTION: Minister McClelland, what about the Medicare
safety net? Will that be now available to same sex
couples?
And, what is the cost of this, in terms of the budget?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: In terms of the budgetary matters, as you'd
appreciate, I won't be giving the detail of the
budgetary implications of these measures. They will
be announced in a couple of weeks time.
But, essentially what the reforms will do will be to
ensure that a couple in a same sex relationship is
regarded in equivalent terms to a couple in a
heterosexual de facto relationship. So in terms of
having regard to what the combined income is of
that household, that will be the assessment for
Medicare purposes and social security means tests
generally.

QUESTION: So, same sex couples will be able to claim the
Medicare safety net as a couple, because that's not
in the, the press release?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Again, I haven't got each and - you'd
appreciate that there's a hundred laws. I can't give
you the details of each and every of those…

QUESTION: …not sure if that applies to the Medicare safety net?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: All I can give you the information on is the
principle. That the principle will be that a same sex
couple will be regarded as a unit for the purpose of
both assessing their means tests and for, from the
point of view of assessing their entitlements.

QUESTION: Will discrimination still exist for IVF, adoption, and
a ceremony?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: In terms of the recent meeting of the
Standing Committee of Attorneys General,
considered the issue of surrogacy, and that is an
area where the Commonwealth is encouraging and
working with States to introduce uniform measures
in respect to surrogacy. They are matters for State
Parliaments.
In respect to adoption, the same situation applies.
The issues of adoption is a State Government
matter. These reforms won't impact upon State
laws.
I should say, in respect to adoption, and
appropriately so, the focus of State adoption laws is
very much on the best interests of the children as
opposed to the rights of adults. And that is a
situation that we will not be intruding on in, in any
way.
And I'm sorry, the third issue?

QUESTION: The ceremony…

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: The ceremony. No, these reforms won't
change the Marriage Act. Consistently with Labor
Party policy we made it clear before the election
that the government regards marriage as being
between a man and a woman; and we don't support
any measures that seek to mimic that process.

QUESTION: Is this a warning, is this a warning to the ACT
Government then?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: I've had discussions, and, discussions in
good faith with the ACT Attorney General. We
have put that view to them. We have indicated that
we strongly support, indeed think it would be a
good thing if States and Territories would agree
upon a uniform system of registration of same sex
relationships; indeed close personal relationships,
along the lines of the Tasmanian or Victorian
models. It would actually be of tremendous
assistance in the application of these federal
reforms.

And we have made that position clear.
While we support a system of registration of same
sex relationships, we don't support an arrangement
that mimics marriage.

QUESTION: So you're removing some discrimination - you're
happy to leave other aspects of discrimination…

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: We're focusing on substance over form.
We are removing discrimination from
Commonwealth laws that have a real and practical
impact on people in same sex relationships.

QUESTION: Mr McClelland, we've heard during this - we've
heard during this process that some people will be
worse off.

So, for example, some same sex couples will now
get less social security because they're classified as
a couple, as heterosexuals would be in that
arrangement.

Have you quantified the savings? Will there be
some people who are now eligible for, for less
social security as a result of these changes?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Unquestionably there will be winners and
losers. But that's recognised by the community, and
as very much part of the removal of discrimination.

There will be, for instance, in assessing the income
of the household as a unit, the means test will have
regard to the total earnings both couples, as opposed
to the earnings of an individual, for the purpose of
assessing whether that individual is entitled to some
form of social security benefit.

On the other hand, there will be - to answer your
question earlier - there will be instances in respect
to pharmaceutical benefits where there will be more
generous provisions.

Equally, in respect to Commonwealth
superannuation, there will also be, there will also be
areas where benefits flow.

The same for, for instance workers compensation,
where children - children will be regarded as
dependents of the primary breadwinner who may
suffer a workplace injury for the purpose of
assessing the child's entitlement to additional
benefits.

QUESTION: Mr McClelland, [indistinct] previous government
was tinkering with this as well. They were going to
include the definition… couples, same sex couples.
But those homosexual relationships, the broader
definition that could be like, [indistinct] or
something like that who have an interdependent
relationship financially, and for all intents and
purposes, but it was a non-sexual one.

Is what you are doing going to affect that, include
those people?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: These reforms focus on same-sex couples.
However, we have indicated to the States and
Territories we would think a system of registration
of close personal relationships, same sex and
otherwise, including that position of carers that you
have mentioned would be a desirable thing.
It is included in the Tasmanian legislation. And we
think that would be a desirable outcome for the
states and territories to collectively work towards.

QUESTION: Can I just clarify that the ACT - if they go ahead
and want to have a ceremony with their registration,
would you, like the Howard Government, intend to
override it?

ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Again, we are in discussions with the ACT
Government. I don't want to pre-empt the outcome
of those discussions.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

New case alters religious defence in Churchie cases

The decision by a NSW Tribunal in OV and another v QV and another, which I commented on yesterday, may well alter the landscape for schools seeking to defend excluding gay and lesbian students from school formals, or even from the school.

It may well mean that at least Christian religious schools in the ACT, NSW, Victoria, SA and WA will not be able to use religion as the reason that gay or lesbian students can be prevented from bringing their partners to the school formal.

The decision meant that an arm of the Uniting Church, the Wesley Mission, was not able to discriminate against two gay men who had applied to be foster parents.

The Church admitted that it had discriminated against the men on the basis of their homosexuality, but that the religious defence was made out. The Tribunal held that the religious defence had not been made out.

To establish the religious defence under NSW law, there had to be shown three things:

- that there was a body established to propagate religion;
- that the offending conduct was either:

(i) an act or practice that conformed with the doctrine of the relevant body’s religion or,
(ii) necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of the adherents of the religion the body was established to propagate.

The Tribunal held that the Wesley Mission was "a body established to propagate religion".

I don't think that it will be terribly hard for religious schools or religious hospitals to show this.

The question is whether the act or practice conformed with the doctrine of the relevant body's religion, or it is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptabilities of the adherents of the religion.



What States does this defence apply in?

It applies in the ACT, NSW, Victoria, SA and WA.

It
does not apply in Qld, Tasmania or the NT.

How is the defence changed?

The starting point is to look at what religion applies. A principal of say a Catholic or an Anglican school may say that the religion is "Catholic" or "Anglicanism". The Tribunal held that the religion in question, when dealing with the Uniting Church was "Christianity", and that the Uniting Church view of the world was merely doctrine:

The applicants [ the gay partners] propose that the Tribunal find that the religion in question in this case is Christianity. The respondents contend that, in the context of this case, a more nuanced finding ought to be made, namely, that the religion propagated by Wesley Mission is ‘the religion of the Uniting Church as practised by Wesley Mission’. We think that this draws a distinction without a difference because it begs the question, what is the religion of the Uniting Church?

The answer to that question, in our view, is simple: Christianity.

The fundamental flaw in the respondents’ contentions is that it bases the argument concerning the definitional question on what they perceive to be the consequences of a finding that Christianity is the relevant religion in this context. But it is the consequences that flow from the definition and not the reverse.

The respondents argue that if the applicants are correct and the relevant religion is Christianity it would render the exception ...useless insofar as it tries to protect acts and practices done to conform with ‘the doctrines of that religion’ – because of the multiplicity and plurality of beliefs within Christianity that one could never properly identify ‘the doctrines of Christianity’. They argue that Parliament must have intended that people should be allowed to conform to the doctrines of a wide range of genuine religious positions – in other words, different streams of Christianity must be recognised as just that: different.



A Reverend Swadling gave evidence for the Church:

The Reverend Paul Swadling’s oral evidence on this issue is revealing. He testified that if in the context of the conduct of the national census or hospital admission, he was asked what was his religion he would reply, ‘the Uniting Church’. He went on to clarify, ‘My religion in fact is Christianity but that’s not normally what people mean when they ask [that] question’. Reverend Swadling was ordained in the Methodist Church the year before the establishment of the Uniting Church.

Reverend Swadling, rightly in our view, in that comment, drew careful theological, ecclesiastical and semantic distinctions. He, unlike many lay people in the community, understands well, because of his training and experience, the distinction between a religion and a church or a denomination.

That distinction is important in this case.

The term ‘religion’ is not defined in the Act.


We agree with the [Wesley Mission] that it is common knowledge that within Christianity there are a number of streams all springing from the same source. It is also a matter of common knowledge and history that the Christian church divided into Eastern and Western churches in its early centuries and that the Western or Roman church divided in the Reformation period into various streams. On the Protestant side of the Reformation divide there were also further divisions. These are the various denominations with which virtually all educated persons in the West are familiar at least by name: Anglicanism, Lutheranism, Quakers, Baptists and so on.

That there are various streams within Christianity does not, however, turn each into a separate religion.


It is common ground that Wesley Mission forms part of the Uniting Church of Australia. The faith or religion of the Uniting Church is the Christian faith and none other. It seems to us that the respondents cannot argue around that fundamental point.

116 We accept that Parliament intended, by inserting section 56 in the Act, to protect religious practice, to preserve freedom of religion and to promote tolerance and acceptance within the broader community of those with particular religious views. Parliament no doubt had in mind the lessons of history and, in particular, sought to protect the community as a whole from the divisive effects of sectarianism, and minorities from persecution and harmful discrimination.

117 Nevertheless, in our view that does not lend support to the respondents’ argument, which would require a warping of the plain language of the statute where it uses the word ‘religion’. We understand their argument concerning consequences and that they contend that Parliament cannot have intended those consequences. It is, unfortunately, sometimes the case that legislation has unintended consequences.

118 Whether, in this case, there are unintended consequences is a different question from the definitional issue with which we have been dealing.

119 For these reasons we find that the relevant religion is Christianity.



The Tribunal then decided to protect itself, if it were criticised for getting religion wrong:

In case our understanding of the meaning of the word religion in the context of [the defence], in the interests of completeness, we will proceed to determine what is the religion of Wesley Mission, if the ordinary meaning of the word religion is accepted to include a denomination, and this is what Parliament meant by its use of the term.


Would the act of excluding gays or lesbians from the formal be consistent with the doctrine of Christianity

The Tribunal held:

Evidence was adduced in these proceedings that the leadership of the Wesley Mission believe it to be a fundamental Biblical teaching that ‘monogamous heterosexual partnership within marriage’ is both the ‘norm and ideal’. However, it does not follow, and nor is it asserted, that that belief can properly be described as a doctrine of the Christian religion.

It is common ground that there is a diversity of views and beliefs within the Christian religion on the issue of homosexuality. The debate within the Uniting Church, about which much evidence was given in these proceedings, is but one of many examples that can be cited to illustrate this point.

In our view the respondents have failed to establish that the nominated doctrine constitutes a doctrine of the Christian religion.



The Tribunal went on to say that it was not persuaded that the doctrine was that of the religion of the Uniting Church.

The Tribunal accepted the submission of the gay couple that the exemption will only apply where the ‘act or practice’ is necessary to avoid injuring the religious susceptibilities of all (or at least a significant majority) of the adherents at once’. Because of the diversity of views iwthin the Christian religion (indeed even in the Uniting Church) about homosexuality, it was not possible to offend the religious susceptabilities of all or most Christians, and therefore this exemption did not apply.

Applying the case to the school formal

A Christian religious school that seeks to rely on this defence will have the immediate difficulty of the incredible diversity of views within Christianity as to homosexuality. As long as the Metropolitan Community Church for example, exists, then it can be legitimately be argued that there is not a defence open to the school based on religion in preventing same sex students from going to the formal.

Friday, 25 April 2008

New case: gay couple awarded $10000 from Uniting Church

In OV and another v. QZ and another, a gay couple enquired of the Uniting Church's Wesley Mission to be foster parents. They were knocked back twice. They were told

The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal awarded each of the couple $5000 compensation for discrimination, but refused to grant the asked for apology, instead ordering that the Wesley Mission ensure that its members undertake appropriate training and development to enable them to properly identify acts of unlawful discrimination, and that the mission develop and implement programs and policies aimed at eliminating unlawful discrimination in the facilitation and provision of foster care.

While the Wesley Mission accepted applicants for foster parents, irrespective of their marital status, OV and QZ were refused because: "As part of Wesley Mission our policies must align with the ethos and values of that church, which does not support same-sex couples".

When OV and QZ complained to the Tribunal, they said that they had been discriminated against on two grounds: marital status and homsexuality. The Uniting Church said that the first ground was misconceived and the second had occurred, but because of the religious exemption, the Church was allowed to discriminate.


Was there discrimination due to marital status?

The Tribunal held that there had not been, because it was clear that the refusal to provide the service of allowing the couple to apply to be foster parents was due not to their marital status but because they were gay.

Could the Church rely on the religious exemption?

This is where it gest really interesting. The long and short of it is: no.

There were three issues:

1. was the Wesley Mission a body established to propagate religion?


2. did the act of discrimination conform to the doctrines of the religion?

3. was the discrimination necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of the adherents of that religion?

The tribunal held that the Wesley Mission, having religious as well as other objectives was a body established to propagate religion.

To be able to decide grounds 2 and 3, the Tribunal had to look at the question of what was a religion. The Tribunal held that the religion was Christianity, even if the doctrine was that of the Uniting Church. As an alternative, the Tribunal considered that there might be a religion of the Uniting Church.

The Tribunal said:
It is common ground that there is a diversity of views and beliefs within the Christian religion on the issue of homosexuality. The debate within the Uniting Church, about which much evidence was given in these proceedings, is but one of many examples that can be cited to illustrate this point.

In our view the respondents have failed to establish that the nominated doctrine constitutes a doctrine of the Christian religion....

It is common ground that the Uniting Church Assembly, the national governing council of the Uniting Church, has not made a formal pronouncement deciding the question of what stance to take doctrinally in relation to homosexuality and homosexuals within the Church. The question has been raised most acutely in relation to the ordination of clergy. In 2003, the Assembly passed a resolution, which affirmed that it was for local presbyteries to consider applicants for ordination and to take into account various criteria, include sexual orientation. It seems that some presbyteries take the view that Christian scriptures and theology prohibit the appointment of homosexuals to the clergy whereas other presbyteries think that there is no scriptural prohibition on homosexual clergy.

It is also agreed that only the Assembly can pronounce doctrine on behalf of the Uniting Church as a whole and that a constituent body of the Church, such as the Wesley Mission, does not have authority to declare doctrine on behalf of the Uniting Church. Where the Assembly does not pronounce or declare doctrine on a particular issue, the weight of evidence before us is to the effect that it is then for the congregation, as Reverend Swadling put it, ‘to wait upon God’s Word, and to obey God’s will in the matters allocated to its oversight....

That Wesley Mission, as with any congregation or group of congregations within the Uniting Church, is free to pronounce doctrine on matters where the Assembly has not done so, does not elevate any doctrine it might pronounce to a doctrine of the ‘religion of the Uniting Church’.

For these reasons, applying the alternative definition, we are not persuaded that the nominated doctrine is a doctrine of the ‘religion of the Uniting Church’.

Conclusion The respondents have failed on balance to establish that the nominated doctrine is a doctrine of either ‘the religion of Christianity’ or ‘the religion of the Uniting Church’. Accordingly it is not necessary to determine whether the offending conduct was ‘done in conformity with the nominated doctrine’.



Necessary to avoid injury to religious susceptibilities

The Tribunal held:

members of the Uniting Church hold a range of views on the issue of homosexuality. The position taken by Wesley Mission that homosexual people are not suitable to take on the role of foster carers is not universally shared throughout the Church. It is a matter of common knowledge that the Uniting Church is not the only Christian denomination where the issue of homosexuality is a contentious issue.

Even if established that the prohibition against homosexual foster carers was necessary to avoid injuring the religious susceptibilities of the members of the ten congregations that make up the Wesley Mission (a point not conceded by the applicants), this would not satisfy the second limb of section 56 as it would only establish that it was necessary to avoid injury to ‘some’ or ‘an unknown proportion’ of the adherents of Christianity.

Given the diversity of views among adherents of the Christian religion about homosexuality, the prohibition against homosexual foster carers applied by Wesley Mission cannot be said to be necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of the adherents of the Christian religion.

Similarly if the alternative definition were to be applied it could not be said that the prohibition against homosexual foster carers is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of the adherents of the religion of the Uniting Church. In reaching that conclusion we note the range of views within the Church on the issue of homosexuality. We also note the evidence that a designated agency operated by the Uniting Church (not Wesley Mission) has authorised as ‘authorised carers’ persons who are openly homosexual and placed children in their care. There is no evidence that this has caused injury to the religious susceptibilities of the members of the Uniting Church.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Congratulations to Cameron Vella

Gay Rockhampton teen Cameron Vella has put up with the abuse for being gay and now at 16 is setting up a support group to help other rainbow teens in Rocky.

What Cameron has done and is doing shows real guts. Hope you get lots of support, Cameron- you deserve it!

NSW to grant parental rights to lesbian partners

CHILDREN born through IVF to lesbian mothers will have the same rights as those of heterosexual couples, under law changes announced by the New South Wales government.

State Attorney-General John Hatzistergos today said he had accepted NSW Law Reform recommendations extending "parental presumption" provisions to cover gay mums.

It was estimated 20 per cent of the state's female same-sex couples had children, Mr Hatzistergos said.

The change affects those born through IVF or artificial fertilisation only, by granting parenting rights and obligations to the non-biological mother.

Link to

full article.

Hatzistergos will not give the same rights to children born from gay relationships and will not extend the gay relationships registers of Tasmania and Victoria to NSW.

But in any case, while this might affect the children at a State level, it is unlikely that the lesbian partner will be a "parent" under the Family Law Act, which has implications for presumptions of shared parenting.

UK: Trans trucker wins at employment tribunal

Trans trucker wins at employment tribunal
Pinknews.co.uk reports: A transsexual who claimed she was hounded out of her job as a trucker after she began her transition from her former male gender has triumphed at her employment tribunal.

Link to article here.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Churchie in white powder scare

Channel 9 is reporting that there has been a white powder scare at Churchie, which the Principal believes is because of the school's stand to prevent students taking gay partners to the formal.

State by state guide as to whether schools can discriminate against same sex students at the formal

WARNING! WARNING!

What I have set out below about religious defences may need to be reconsidered in light of a recent NSW Tribunal decision. Link to the updated post at the end of this post.

I was asked late last week by Triple J about the what if- what if the gay students were going to a school outside Queensland- would the student be able to complain that they had been discriminated against because they could not bring their gay partner.

Good question.

So I've set out the shopping list for each State and Territory as to discrimination about refusing students bringing a friend to the school formal who is of the same sex. It's clockwise starting in Queensland.

Queensland

As I

posted before, it is illegal for a school in Queensland to discriminate in the provision of benefits arising from enrolment (like the formal) or to discriminate in the provision of goods and services (like the formal). This is the case whether the school is state or private, and whether religious or not.

New South Wales

Transgender discrimination- schools in NSW can't discriminate against transgender students in the provision of benefits (such as going to the school formal) except if they're a private school, when they can discriminate.


Homosexual discrimination- schools in NSW can't discriminate against homosexual students (both gay and lesbian) in the provision of benefits (such as going to the school formal) except if they're a private school, when they can discriminate.


However, this is when it gets trickier for both types of discrimination. Someone providing a good or service cannot discriminate. So for example a school or a function centre organising the school formal is not allowed to discriminate.

There are exceptions for religious schools allowing them to discriminate when it is for "any other act or practice of a body established to propagate religion that conforms to the doctrines of that religion or is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of the adherents of that religion". So if a school, such as the Church of England Grammar School said that for boys to invite other boys (as opposed to girls) to the school formal did not conform to the religious views of the school, then the school might be able to discriminate.

Australian Capital Territory

It is illegal in the ACT to discriminate on the grounds of sex, sexuality or transsexuality. Acts of discrimination extend to preventing a student from gaining benefits from a school, such as going to the formal. The school also cannot discriminate in the providing of goods and services or facilities.

There are exceptions for religious schools to "any other act or practice of a body established to propagate religion that conforms to the doctrines of that religion or is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of the adherents of that religion". So if a school, such as the Church of England Grammar School said that for boys to invite other boys (as opposed to girls) to the school formal did not conform to the religious views of the school, then the school might be able to discriminate.

There is a similar exception specifically allowing religious or faith schools to discriminate "in good faith to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion or creed".


Victoria

It is illegal in Victoria to discriminate on the grounds of gender identity, lawful sexual activity, sex or sexual orientation. Acts of discrimination extend to preventing a student from gaining benefits from a school, such as going to the formal or in the subjecting the student to any other detriment. The school also cannot discriminate in the providing of goods and services.

Religious schools can discriminate for the formal if the discrimination "conforms with the doctrines of the religion" or "is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of people of the religion".

A religious school can also discriminate if it discriminates "in the course of establishing, directing, controlling or administering the educational institution (including the employment of people in the institution) that is in accordance with the relevant religious beliefs or principles."

So if a school, such as the Church of England Grammar School said that for boys to invite other boys (as opposed to girls) to the school formal did not conform to the religious views of the school, then the school might be able to discriminate.



Tasmania

It is illegal in Tasmania to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, lawful sexual activity, relationship status or gender.


South Australia

It is illegal in South Australia to discriminate on the grounds of "sexuality" which means heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or transexuality. Acts of discrimination extend to preventing a student from gaining benefits from a school, such as going to the formal or in the subjecting the student to any other detriment. The school also cannot discriminate in the providing of goods and services.

Religious schools can discriminate for the formal if the discrimination "conforms with the doctrines of the religion" or "is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of that religion".

A religious school can also discriminate if it discriminates on the ground of sexuality, or cohabitation with another person of the same sex as a couple on a genuine domestic basis, that arises in the course of the administration of that institution and is founded on the precepts of that religion. So if a school, such as the Church of England Grammar School said that for boys to invite other boys (as opposed to girls) to the school formal did not conform to the religious views of the school, then the school might be able to discriminate.



Western Australia

It is illegal in Western Australia to discriminate on the grounds of gender history, or "sexual orientation" which means heterosexuality, homosexuality, lesbianism or bisexuality and includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, lesbianism or bisexuality imputed to the person. Acts of discrimination extend to preventing a student from gaining benefits from a school, such as going to the formal or in the subjecting the student to any other detriment. The school also cannot discriminate in the providing of goods and services.

Religious schools can discriminate for the formal if the discrimination "conforms with the doctrines of the religion" or "is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of that religion".

A religious school can also discriminate if it is "in connection with the provision of education or training by an educational institution that is conducted in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed, if the first-mentioned person so discriminates in good faith in favour of adherents of that religion or creed generally, but not in a manner that discriminates against a particular class or group of persons who are not adherents of that religion or creed".

So if a school, such as the Church of England Grammar School said that for boys to invite other boys (as opposed to girls) to the school formal did not conform the religious views of the school, then the school might be able to discriminate.



Northern Territory

It is illegal in the NT to discriminate on the grounds of sex or sexuality. Acts of discrimination extend to preventing a student from gaining benefits from a school, such as going to the formal or in the subjecting the student to any other detriment. The school also cannot discriminate in the providing of goods, services and facilities.

Link to update



Click here

Equal level of commitment and relationship satisfaction found among gay and heterosexual couples

Equal level of commitment and relationship satisfaction found among gay and heterosexual couples
Findings knock down stereotype that gay relationships are not as healthy and secure as heterosexual marriages
WASHINGTON – Same-sex couples are just as committed in their romantic relationships as heterosexual couples, say researchers who have studied the quality of adult relationships and healthy development. Their finding disputes the stereotype that couples in same-sex relationships are not as committed as their heterosexual counterparts and are therefore not as psychologically healthy.

These results are from two studies featured in the January issue of Developmental Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association. This issue includes a special section that examines sexual orientation across the lifespan.

Both studies compared same-sex couples with opposite-sex couples on a number of developmental and relationship factors. The first study examined whether committed same-sex couples differ from engaged and married opposite-sex couples in how well they interacted and how satisfied they were with their partners. Evidence has shown that positive interactions improve the quality of relationships in ways that foster healthy adult development.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign compared 30 committed gay male and 30 committed lesbian couples with 50 engaged heterosexual couples and 40 older married heterosexual couples, as well as with dating heterosexual couples. All the partners responded to a questionnaire that documented how positively they interacted with one another on a day to day basis. The couples were also observed during a laboratory task and were monitored for distress by skin conductance and heart rate.

Results showed that same-sex relationships were similar to those of opposite-sex couples in many ways. All had positive views of their relationships but those in the more committed relationships (gay and straight) resolved conflict better than the heterosexual dating couples. And lesbian couples worked together especially harmoniously during the laboratory tasks.

The notion that committed same-sex relationships are “atypical, psychologically immature, or malevolent contexts of development was not supported by our findings,” said lead author Glenn I. Roisman, PhD. “Compared with married individuals, committed gay males and lesbians were not less satisfied with their relationships.”

Furthermore, said Roisman, “Gay males and lesbians in this study were generally not different from their committed heterosexual counterparts on how well they interacted with one another, although some evidence emerged the lesbian couples were especially effective at resolving conflict.”

In the second study, researchers from the University of Washington, San Diego State University and the University of Vermont wanted to examine how sexual orientation and legal status affected relationship quality. To do so, they followed 65 male and 138 female same-sex couples with civil unions, 23 male and 61 female same-sex couples not in civil unions and 55 heterosexual married couples over a three-year period. One member of each heterosexual couple was a sibling to a member of a civil union couple.

Both partners in all of the couples answered questions regarding their demographics, status of their relationship, number of children, sexual behavior, frequency of contact with their parents with and without their partners and perceived social support. Partners in same-sex relationships also answered questions regarding disclosure of their sexual orientation to their family, peers and work associates.

The researchers found that same-sex couples were similar to heterosexual couples on most relationships variables, and that the legalized status of a relationship did not seem to be the overriding factor affecting same-sex relationships.

Despite the legal status of their relationships, the civil union couples showed no differences on any of the relationship measures from the same-sex couples who were in committed relationships but not in civil unions. “This may be because those couples in Vermont who sought out the legal protection of a civil union might have legalized their relationship more for symbolic value than for commitment reasons, which did not affect their day-to-day interactions,” said lead author Kimberly F. Balsam, PhD.

However, the same sex-couples who were not in civil unions were more likely to have ended their relationships compared to those couples in same-sex civil unions or heterosexual marriages. This suggests that the protections afforded by a legalized relationship may impact same-sex relationships, something the study’s authors plan to follow up on in future research, said Balsam.

The findings also showed that same-sex couples, regardless of civil union status, were more satisfied with their relationships compared to married heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples reported more positive feelings toward their partners and less conflict than heterosexual married couples, said the authors. They theorized that there may be societal pressures and norms, as well as the presence of legal status as a couple, which may contribute to heterosexual couples staying together even when they are not happy. Alternatively, most long-term same-sex couples have to stay together by their own will and hard work since they don’t have society’s forces on their side, Balsam added.

This was the first study to follow same-sex couples in legalized unions over a period of time. This type of design allows the researchers to monitor changes in the relationships and compare them with changes experienced by both same-sex couples not in civil unions and heterosexual couples. All the couples were comparable with respect to race/ethnicity and age at the time of the study.


Link to full article

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Churchie: Brisbane LGBTyouth service supports the rights of students

“Open Doors strongly advocates that excluding gay and bisexual students from equal participation within school is harmful to their health and education”.


It has been reported that Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie) has banned its young men from bringing other young men as their partners to a school function.


Open Doors Youth Service provides support and early intervention services to vulnerable young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, their families, schools and other community services. “We service principally in the areas of family breakdown, at-risk young people, homelessness, addiction, contact with the criminal justice system, mental health and suicide prevention, in a variety of cultural and social contexts. We address homelessness, linking young people with employment and education, crisis support, family mediation, advocacy and education”, said Chairperson Russel Flynn today.


Research shows that approximately 5-10% of males are homosexual or bisexual.


Open Doors was disappointed to be informed that Churchie would not allow its students to take a same-sex partner to their formal. Only when our educational system is willing to embrace its non-heterosexual students will these students be able to achieve their academic and personal potential. “We think this edict does much to reinforce to the young people that who they are is inherently unacceptable; and that can be very harmful” Mr Flynn said. “Open Doors would hope that all schools would be more enlightened than this”.


Open Doors have worked with a number of the school’s young men, including several of Churchie’s current students. They are polite, well educated and totally respectful young men who will obviously grow up to be leaders in our community. These young men are a credit to Anglican Church Grammar School. Given the percentage of non-heterosexual people within the population, Anglican Church Grammar School will have approximately 85-170 gay and bisexual students currently attending – with many probably hiding their sexuality due to homophobia in their lives. We think this is a very strong message to them to keep doing just that.


According to La Trobe University’s Writing Themselves In Again study, within Australia:

80% of young gay and bisexual males report experiencing homophobic abuse within school – school was a more homophobic context than any other in their lives.
Owing to homophobia, gay and bisexual young people inject drugs at twice the rate of their heterosexual counterparts.
Owing to homophobia, young gay men are almost 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers
The greater the rate of homophobic rejection young gay men face, the greater the chance they will engage in self-harming behaviours such as cutting – 35% of gay youth engage in self harm
One in five young gay men have been assaulted on the basis of their sexuality.
Many young gay and bisexual men drop out of high school because of homophobia.


According to Open Doors’ latest annual client survey, Coming Out About Coming In, 94% of young gay people who experience emotional violence engage in self harm.


Writing Themselves In Again also reports:


Social connectedness and inclusion are vital pre-requisites for good mental health and a sense of wellbeing. It is therefore disappointing that these [gay and bisexual] young people are being given such strong messages that they are unacceptable and that they do not belong in the broader community. These messages create feelings of alienation from the community that are continuously reinforced. We know that resilience in young people is dependant on connectedness and trust in other people, two things that are destroyed when young people are treated as outsiders.


Open Doors hopes that all schools would nurture, educate and empower their students - enable them to uphold their legal rights, maintain their physical and emotional health, and complete their studies, hetero-sexual and non-heterosexual. To self-actualise and have pride in themselves and their community. We believe that such a decision to exlude and marginalise young people on the basis of their identity does nothing but severe harm to this objective.


Open Doors also hopes that school staff are willing to act upon the principle that the wellbeing of student is more important than keeping the more conservative members of our society appeased.


For more information please contact Lisa Thorpy, Open Doors Coordinator, 0409 621 572.


Open Doors Youth Service, PO Box 194, Fortitude Valley 4005, QLD.



www.opendoors.net.au for more information and reports.

Somebody's Baby

Somebody's Baby- opposed to bullying at school

Friday, 18 April 2008

Australian: Rudd to delay equality reforms

The Australian reports that the Rudd Government is considering delaying the promised removal of legal discrimination against gays and lesbians, which will cost taxpayers up to $400million over four years.

The cost of removing legal discrimination against gays and lesbians is less than half the amount claimed by the Howard government, but the Rudd Government is still undecided about whether to include the reforms in the May budget.

Human Rights Commissioner Graham Innes said any further delay would be unacceptable. "Cost is not the issue. The issue here is a basic right and that is the right to equality..."

Churchie: PFLAG seeks openness

PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) spokeswoman, Shelley Argent said most gay students stay quiet about their sexuality at high school to avoid bullying and ostracism and that she suspected that the school's policy was motivated by concerns for its image.

“We need to encourage inclusion and openness and honesty.”


Link to article

Churchie: interstate schools

Ninemsn has reported that melbourne's Marcellin College has taken the same approach as Churchie, but Adelaide's Scotch College has allowed same sex partners to turn up,the principal saying: "It's a non-issue to be honest".

Link to article

UK: Being Gay At Work - New Gay Market Research Reveals Most Gays and Lesbians Think Being ’Out’ Can Harm Their Careers

UK: New research reveals that most gays and lesbians worry being openly gay harms promotion prospects

- Harassment problems reported by many gays and lesbians in UK workplaces

The most comprehensive market research study ever undertaken of the UK gay and lesbian community reveals most gays and lesbians think coming out as gay can harm their careers.

These first findings from the ’Out Now 2008 Millivres Gay Market Study’ reveal new information about being gay at work in the UK.

For the first time ever in a large-scale research study, gays and lesbians were asked whether they thought being openly gay at work can harm their prospects for promotion.

The vast majority of respondents - 82% of lesbians and 75% of gay men - say that being open with everyone at work about being gay is not a good career move.

One in eight said that being out as gay at work would "definitely" hold back their job promotion prospects.

For the first time in a gay market research project, respondents were asked about whether coming out at work is still an issue these days. For most respondents it definitely is. Fewer than one in five female respondents (18%) and one in four male respondents (25%) said being openly gay at work would not cause any harm to their career prospects for promotion at work.

Leading global gay strategy consulting company, Out Now, carried out the new research amongst users of Britain’s most respected gay media: GT, Pink Paper and DIVA.

14% of respondents were harassed at work in the UK last year because they were perceived to be lesbian or gay.

Two out of three respondents rate their own employer as less than perfect in how they treat their own lesbian and gay employees.

According to Out Now the results show workplace gay Equality and Diversity policies are not filtering down into actual day-to-day life at work.

Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now said: "One of the worrying things is that some companies enter into the Stonewall Diversity Champions program, and are then highly rated in the Workplace Equality Index, but workers in these same workplaces report suffering personal harassment and discrimination at work" Johnson said.

"Widespread mainstream media reporting on the top 100 employers can make it seem like the problem of being openly gay at work is no longer an issue. These figures show that just is not the case. More than one person in every eight said they were harassed at work last year for being gay" Johnson said. "The fact that two out of every three respondents think their own employer treats gay staff less than perfectly is - in 2008 - rather depressing"

"One of the particularly worrying results is that so many gays and lesbians are concerned that coming out as gay at work can harm their career prospects" Johnson said. "Concealing your sexuality at work takes a lot of energy - energy that could be far more productively used in building better workplace relations - based on mutual trust and respect - between everyone at work"

Joseph Galliano, editor of GT says: “We’ve made massive moves towards equality in a very short period of time but gay people don’t yet feel those gains are totally secure. We need to ensure that changes in legislation translate into deeper cultural transformations.”

The survey results are reported on in the April issue of GT magazine, the UK’s largest paid circulation magazine for gay men.

Notes to editors:

6% of UK adults are believed to be lesbian or gay. Source: Out Now Consulting, 1994 and 2005. Whitehall, 2005.

For copyright reasons, any reference to this information must include the following research reference: "Out Now 2008 Millivres Gay Market Study ". Sample size is 1231 respondents, comprised of lesbians and gay men, drawn from across the UK between September 2007 and January 2008.

Further information is available online at
www.gaymarketnews.com

Ian Johnson, CEO
Out Now Consulting
UK landline: +44-(0)20-8123 5288
UK mobile: +44-(0)7906 553 990
US landline: +1-310-878 4878

www.outnowconsulting.com

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Churchie: Again

The Australian has reported that while Churchie has banned boys from the school taking other boys to the school formal, two other leading Brisbane schools, Stuartholme and Brisbane Boys Grammar have allowed students to take guests of the same sex to their formals.

Stuartholme is a girls only Catholic school. Grammar is, not surprisingly from the name, a boys school.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Churchie: further update

The
ABC has reported that the Head of the Anglican Church in Australia, Brisbane Archbishop Phillip Aspinall has supported the Church of England Grammar School (Churchie) decision to insist that gay students only be able to take girls to the school formal.

Victorian relationship register now passed through Parliament

Both houses of Victoria's parliament have passed the relationship register laws- so that Victoria will now have a relationship register on the same model as that in Tasmania.

Churchie students may boycott formal to support gay rights

In a further development to the controversy surrounding Churchie's decision to ban gay students from taking their partners to the formal, the students may consider boycotting the formal, according to The Courier-Mail

Sunday, 13 April 2008

US: eye-opening rape and violence stats

I have recently been reading the California Coalition Agaianst Sexual Assault (Calcasa) Trends report 2008, which is a bit of a mouthful, and as may be expected there are a lot of US stats, but they make very interesting reading. The report is huge, but well worth reading. Here are some samples:


Violence against LGBTI people

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs produced
its 2004 report on the trends regarding anti-LGBT
violence reported to their network of over 20 antiviolence
organizations nationwide. These organizations monitor and
respond to incidents of bias, domestic, HIV-related and
other forms of violence affecting the LGBT community in
their areas. Their findings indicated the following trend
from 2002 to 2003:
• The total number of bias-related incidents reported an
increase of 8% between 2002 and 2003.
• Notable changes in reported incidences around the country
during this period include: Houston (+150%),
Colorado (+62%), Cleveland, OH -5%), Los Angeles
(+6%), Columbus, OH (-4%) and San Francisco (-11%).
• The number of sexual assault/rape reports decreased
from 37% to 20% from the previous year.
• There was an overall decline in the number of cases
reported to law enforcement (-2%) and in the number
of cases refused by law enforcement (-12%) in 2003.
A national representative sample of 760 kids (aged 12-17)
was asked about their experience with and opinions about
anti-gay teasing and bullying in their schools and neighborhoods.
Results showed:
• More than three-quarters of teens (78%) reported that
kids who are gay or thought to be gay are teased or
bullied in their schools and communities.
• 93% hear other kids at school or in their neighborhood
use anti-gay epithets at least “once in a while”, 51%
reported hearing them every day.
• 4% reported participating in the teasing and bullying
because they “think it’s funny,” “didn’t think much
about it,” or “were only playing around.”
• 78% reacted unfavorably towards expressions of antigay
bias, 5% said they try to stick up for the kids who
are targets. Only 3% said they found the teasing and
bullying funny, 11% said they ignored it or didn’t care.
Citing previous Hate Crime research, it is estimated that
only 13-14% of anti-gay violence is reported to the police
each year in a longitudinal study. Victims often believed
that discussion of their sexuality would subject them to
further victimization and were reluctant to disclose it.
Earlier studies indicated that between 16-30% of LGBT victims
had been victimized by the police.

Rates of sexual abuse and assault of gay men may be
higher than those found in studies of men generally (i.e.
without reference to sexual orientation). One study indicated that 37% of the men reported having a sexual encounter with an older or stronger partner (usually a
man) before the age of 17. 51% of those encounters involved the use of force and more than 93% met the definition of sexual abuse or assault.

More than half of the respondents to a lesbian health survey
had experienced a verbal hate crime. One in 20 reported
having been physically assaulted. Other research
showed three-fourths of the lesbians surveyed experienced
at least one verbal hate crime and 1 in 10 reported a history
of hate-motivated physical assault.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs produced
its 2003 report on the trends regarding anti-LGBT
violence reported to their network of 26 antiviolence
organizations nationwide. These organizations monitor and
respond to incidents of bias, domestic, HIV-related and
other forms of violence affecting the LGBT community in
their areas. Their findings indicated the following trendsfrom
2001 to 2002:
• The total number of bias-related incidents reported a
slight increase of 1% between 2000 and 2001. This
contrasts with a decrease in reported incidences from
2000 to 2001.
• Most reporting locations showed a small to significant
increase in reported incidences. The largest increases
reported around the country during this period came
from organizations in: Houston (+150%), Colorado
(+62%), Cleveland, OH (+44%), Los Angeles
(+20%), Columbus, OH (+17%) and San Francisco
(+13%).
• The number of sexual assault/rape reports increased
37% from the previous year.
• Almost 20% of the reports were refused by law
enforcement in 2002.

According to a study conducted in Massachusetts, young
lesbians and bisexual girls experienced more sexual
harassment than heterosexual girls. 72% of lesbian and
bisexual girls reported that they were “called sexually
offensive names” by their peers, compared with 63% of
heterosexual girls. Lesbians and bisexual girls were significantly
more likely than heterosexual girls to be “touched,
brushed up against, or cornered in a sexual way (63% as
compared to 52% of heterosexual girls) and to be grabbed
or have their clothing pulled in a sexual way (50% compared
to 44%). 23% of young lesbian and bisexual girls
reported that their peers had “attempted to hurt them in a
sexual way (attempted rape or rape),” while 6% of the heterosexual
girls surveyed had experienced sexual violence of
this nature.”

In a sample of 412 university students, 16.9% of the subjects
reported that they were lesbian, gay, or bisexual; the
remainder identified themselves as heterosexual. Of the
lesbian, gay, and bisexual subjects 42.4% (30.6% female
and 11.8% male) and 21.4% of the heterosexuals (17.8%
female and 3.6% male) indicated they had been forced to
have sex against their will.

A 1991 study of university students reported that of their
sample of gay/bisexual students (including both gay men
and lesbians) approximately 18% had been victims of rape,
approximately 12% had been victims of attempted rape, and
approximately 37% had been victims of sexual coercion.321
There were 2,552 reported anti-gay incidents in 1998, of
which 88 were sexual assault/rapes.

The increase in rapes and sexual assaults rose 13%
nationally in 1995-1996 against lesbians and gays,
approximately twice the 6% rate for all violent crimes.
According to the First National Survey of Transgender
Violence, 13.7% of 402 persons reported being a victim of
rape or attempted rape.


Same sex domestic violence

70% of lesbians responding to a survey regarding samesex
sexual violence indicated that as a group they had
experienced 91 instances of sexual violence within the context
of a relationship. More than half of the women in the
study indicated that they had experienced more than one
abusive relationship in their lifetime.

In a study of 162 gay men and 111 lesbians, 52% reported
at least one incident of sexual coercion by same-sex partners. Gay men experienced 1.6 incidents per person; while lesbians experienced 1.2 incidents per person.

Men living with male intimate partners experience more
intimate partner violence than do men living with female
intimate partners. 15% of men who lived with a man as a
couple reported being raped/assaulted or stalked by a male
cohabitant.


Sexual assault

According to data from the National Crime Victimization
Survey, 15,130 men age 12 and older reported being raped
or sexually assaulted.

Victim and assault characteristics of men (64 who had
been sexually assaulted by a stranger, and 81 who had
been sexually assaulted by an acquaintance) presenting to
a sexual assault care center were measured and compared
to those of the 106 women who presented during that
same period:
• Male victims in this sample were more likely to be
young, single men who reported high rates of vulnerability
such as homelessness and physical, psychiatric and
cognitive disabilities when compared to the characteristics
of the women who presented to the care center.
• Male stranger rape victims were more likely to have
had their assaults involve weapons and physical violence
when compared to the characteristics of the
assaults of women who presented to the care center.
In a study of British college students, 14% of males (compared
with 24% of females) had experienced forced sexual
contact or intercourse at least once in their lives. Male
victims were found to experience high levels of self-blame,
depression and other negative attributions after sexual
assault.

Results of an experimental study indicated that male victims
are often assessed more blame for their assaults than
female victims.

When presented with vignettes depicting male-on-male
sexual assault, college students in a recent study routinely
attributed more pleasure and less trauma when the victim
was homosexual. Male study participants attributed more
responsibility and pleasure to a male victim than did
female participants.


A review of prior research studies found that only 56% of
male child sexual assault victims were referred to mental
health treatment. However, when abused boys were offered
post-abuse counseling. 73-77% attended at least one session.
Other studies consistently showed that police involvement
was infrequent in male child sexual abuse cases (13%
of the cases), low post-disclosure medical examinations (20-
58% of the cases), and that cases involving males were
prosecuted less often than female sexual abuse cases.
According to data collected from the National Incident-Based
Reporting System, juvenile males (under the age of 18) represented
a higher percentage of victims (18%) in reported
incidences of sexual assault than adult males (4%). Males
represented 15% of the juvenile victims of sexual assault
with an object, 20% of juvenile victims of forcible fondling
and 59% of juvenile victims of forcible sodomy. The percentages
increase for male victims under the age of 12.

In a study of male survivors sexually abused as children,
over 80% had a history of substance abuse; 50% had suicidal
thoughts; 23% had attempted suicide; and almost 70%
had received psychological treatment.

An estimated 92,700 men are forcibly raped each year in the
United States.

While 9 out of 10 rape victims are women, men and boys
are also victimized by this crime. In 1995, 32,130 males age
12 and older were victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual
assault.

Men in a sample for a recent study indicated that 35% had
experienced non-consensual sex in which either as an adult
or a child, someone had coerced or forced them into having
sex against their will. 49% reported that more than one different
perpetrator forced or coerced them into having sex in
their lifetime and 64% of the men reported having had force
or coercion used in more than one occasion in their lifetime.
Only 39% of the men in the study reporting victimization
had ever received any counseling to help them deal with the
sexual abuse.


Domestic violence

Violence against women is primarily partner violence.
76% of the women who were raped and/or physically
assaulted since age 18 were assaulted by a current or
former husband, cohabiting partner, or date, compared
with 18% of the men. 17% of the women surveyed
were raped and/or physically assaulted by an
acquaintance, such as a friend, neighbor, or coworker;
14% were victimized by a stranger, and 9% were
victimized by a relative other than a husband. Total
percentages exceed 100 because some victims had
multiple perpetrators.
30% of the adult sexual assault cases (after 16 years of
age) reported in the Women’s Safety Project Survey were
perpetrated by men who were in intimate relationships
with the women they assaulted. These men were husbands,
common-law partners, or boyfriends. An additional
28% of the cases were perpetrated by men who were
dates and/or acquaintances of the women they sexually
assaulted. When other known assailants (co-workers,
authority figures) are included, a total of 83.3% of the
sexual assault cases were perpetrated by men known to
the women they assaulted.


Women living with female intimate partners experience
less intimate partner violence (11%) than women living
with male intimate partners (30.4%).

A recent study found that the number of forced sexual
experiences a woman has correlates significantly with
depression. Women who experienced more sexual assaults
reported increased levels of depression, as well as presenting
with significantly more gynecological problems than
women who were not sexually abused.

Over half of the women in a recent survey on
separation/divorce sexual assault indicated that they had
been assaulted by their partners when they wanted to
leave, 32% indicated they had been assaulted during the
process of leaving and 37% had been assaulted by their
partner after they had left the relationship.


Prison Rape

Epidemiology reports estimate that the number of victims
of sexual violence occurring in prisons and other places of
incarceration or detention over the past 20 years likely
exceeds one million, and is being committed against male
and female inmates, and by other inmates or correctional
staff. Consequences of prison sexual assault, according to
meta-analyses are that victims have a high risk of suicide,
contracting HIV and other communicable sexual diseases
and experience lifelong psychological and emotional trauma.

A recent study on sexual assault of female inmates in three
Midwestern prisons indicated that, sexual coercion rates in
2 of the 3 women’s prisons ranged between 8%-9%. In the
third facility (in which the population was considered
rougher than the other two because it housed more serious
offenders) the sexual coercion rate was 19%. Female
inmates committed nearly half of the incidents of sexual
coercion. Incidents ranged from casual sexual grabs to
injurious gang rapes. When staff perpetrated the assault,
both male & female staff used their authority to bribe,
blackmail and force inmates into sexual contact. Most victims
were likely to not report the incident and the most
cited reasons were: fear of retaliation (especially if staff
members were the perpetrator) or fear that they would not
be believed.

Human Rights Watch conducted a study of male inmate on
inmate sexual assault occurring in U.S. prisons. Their
study participants were representative of prisons in 37
states. A summary of their findings included characteristics
of victims and offenders. Researchers caution that these
findings represent only general characteristics and patterns
found through their interviews and research and emphasize
that any prisoner can become a victim of sexual
assault.

• Factors increasing a prisoner’s vulnerability to rape
include: youth, small size and physical weakness,
being Caucasian, being gay, being a first offender,
possessing feminine characteristics (identified as long
hair or high voice), being shy, unassertive and/or
unaggressive, being convicted of a sexual offense of a
minor. Prisoners having any one of these characteristics
typically faced increased risk of sexual abuse.
Prisoners having several overlapping characteristics
were much more likely than other inmates to be the
target of sexual abuse.
• Prison rapists typically had the following characteristics:
young - under the age of 35 years of age, and
typically are at least as young as their victims.
Perpetrators tend to be strong, assertive and physically
aggressive, more at home in the prison environment
than their victims, “street smart”, and often gang members.
They typically have been convicted of more violent
crimes than their victims.
• Although gay prisoners had a high vulnerability to sexual
abuse while incarcerated, their research indicated
that gay inmates were not likely to be perpetrators.
Human Rights Watch conducted a three year survey of
state departments of corrections and the Federal Bureau of
Prisons and found that of the 47 departments responding
only 23 were able to provide statistics on the number of
incidences of reported male inmate on inmate sexual
abuse. Research indicated that other respondents reported
that such abuse was so infrequent as to not warrant a separate
statistical category relating to inmate violence.
Contrasted with this finding were data from an internal
survey of guards from a southern prison who indicated
that an estimated 20% of their inmates were being coerced
into inmate-on-inmate sex. Inmates surveyed estimated
that 33% of inmates were victimized while higher ranking
officials tended to estimate the victimization rate at
13%.

The U.S. Justice Department reports that since 1992 more
than 60 people who worked with female inmates in
Arizona have been dismissed, have resigned or have been
disciplined as a result of sexual misconduct.
Lesbian and Transgendered prisoners are targeted for
sexual abuse not only because of their gender, but also
their sexual orientation.
According to a 1994 survey of the Nebraska Department of
Corrections System:
• Of 452 male respondents in 3 prisons, 101 or 22%
indicated they had been “pressured or forced to have
sexual contact against their will.
• A third of the targets said they were victimized only
once, 38% between 2-5 times. 14% said they were
victimized 11 or more times. The average number of
victimizations was 9.
• 42% were victims of gang rape. A single perpetrator
was involved in half of the most serious cases. 10%
of the incidents involved groups of 6 or more. The
numbers of attacks perpetrated by strangers and
acquaintances were equally divided.
• Prison staff was reported as perpetrators in 18% of the
incidents.
• The victim was injured in 32% of the cases and a
weapon was used in 27% of the cases.
Following U.S. Justice Department investigations of
women’s prisons in California from 1997 to 1998, their
findings showed that nearly every female inmate interviewed
reported various sexually aggressive acts by guards.
A number of women reported that officers routinely cornered
women while they were in their cells or on work
details and pressed their bodies against them mocking sexual
intercourse or exposed their genitals while making sexually
suggestive remarks.


Domestic violence and sexual abuse

Physical violence in intimate relationships almost always is
accompanied by psychological abuse, and in one-third to
over half of cases, by sexual abuse.


Prostitution

Juvenile prostitution offenders known to police were
more often male (61%) than female (39%), a greater
disproportion than among adult prostitution offenders
(53% male and 47% female).
• Police are less likely to arrest juvenile prostitutes than
adult prostitutes but were more likely to arrest male
juvenile prostitutes than female juvenile prostitutes.
• Female juvenile prostitutes were more likely to be
referred to social service agencies than male juvenile
prostitutes.


Finally- the connection between paedophilia and being gay, lesbian or bi

82% of the suspected perpetrators of child sexual abuse in
a study sample were at the time of the offense or had been
at some time involved in a heterosexual relationship witha
close relative of the child they victimized. In their study
sample, researchers found that a child’s risk of being
molested by his or her relative’s heterosexual partner was
over 100 times greater than their being molested by someone
who identifies as being homosexual, lesbian or bisexual
(0.7% of the cases).

Churchie's ban: comment

Comment: Churchie has long been recognised as one of the elite schools of Queensland for boys. Certainly one of the most expensive and probably one of the most conservative.

When will those associated with these acts grow up and realise that we are in the 21st century and that everyone should be accepted for who they are? Teachers' ultimate legal position towards students is that of being in loco parentis- in the position of parents. This is a justification used by schools and teachers to cover a whole set of school rules. If these teachers were truly loving and caring for their charges, they would accept their students for who they are, and not impose old fashioned and ill fitting notions on them.

It must be incredibly hard for teenagers to come out, especially at such a conservative school. There have been too many teen suicides in Australia, some associated with not being accepted as different. Are these teachers so indifferent to the psychological wellbeing of their students that they can't recognise that students simply don't come out of a cookie cutter?

Churchie's reported act of prohibited gay students to bring their boyfriend on the basis that cultural norms and traditions demand that a girl be brought, are simply on their face unlawful.

There are both State and Federal anti-discrimination laws. The Federal laws (which are limited to things like racial discrimination and discrimination against women) do not apply. The Queensland

Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 does apply.

It is concerning that the Catholic Education Office apparently endorses the reported discrimination.

The relevant bits of the Anti-Discrimination Act

1. Section 7 of the Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, lawful sexual activity, sexuality, or association with, or relation to, a person identified on the basis of any of those. In other words, on its face to prohibit boys from taking their partners to the formal might fail all or any of these, and the discrimination may not be just against those boys who cannot take their partners, but also the boys who could not go or even their relatives/friends.

2. Section 10(1) talks about what is direct discrimination: Direct discrimination on the basis of an attribute happens if a person treats, or proposes to treat, a person with an attribute less favourably than another person without the attribute is or
would be treated in circumstances that are the same or not materially different.
An example might be if Churchie were to prohibit a student bringing a gay partner to the formal.

3. Section 10(2) provides: It is not necessary that the person who discriminates considers the treatment is less favourable. So just because a teacher or school administration thinks that there is nothing wrong with the ban does not make it right.

4. Section 11 talks about what is indirect discrimination. Subsection (1) provides: Indirect discrimination on the basis of an attribute happens if a person imposes, or proposes to impose, a term—
(a) with which a person with an attribute does not or is not
able to comply; and
(b) with which a higher proportion of people without the
attribute comply or are able to comply; and
(c) that is not reasonable.

So a partner of a gay student cannot comply with the requirement to attend the formal, which requires him to be female. Is the indirect discrimination reasonable?

5. What is reasonable is set out in s.11(2): Whether a term is reasonable depends on all the relevant circumstances of the case, including, for example—
(a) the consequences of failure to comply with the term; and
(b) the cost of alternative terms; and
s 12 21 s 12
Anti-Discrimination Act 1991
(c) the financial circumstances of the person who imposes,
or proposes to impose, the term.

What can be reasonable to refuse to allow the partner to attend on the basis of tradition, or because it is a church based school, raising the issue of religion?

6. Is the service provided by the school an action covered by the Act? Section 39 provides: An educational authority must not discriminate—
(a) in any variation of the terms of a student’s enrolment; or
(b) by denying or limiting access to any benefit arising from
the enrolment that is supplied by the authority; or
(c) by excluding a student; or
(d) by treating a student unfavourably in any way in
connection with the student’s training or instruction.

The dictionary to the Act defines as "educational authority" as meaning a person or body administering an educational institution.

So Churchie would be an educational institution. Refusing to allow a student to take their gay partner would fall foul of (b) and possibly (d).

7. Is there any exemption because Churchie is a single sex school? The long and short of it is "no". Section 41 provides: An educational authority that operates, or proposes to operate,an educational institution wholly or mainly for students of a
particular sex or religion, or who have a general or specific impairment may exclude—
(a) applicants who are not of the particular sex or religion;
or
(b) applicants who do not have a general, or the specific,
impairment.

This merely says that the school can prohibit students who attend Churchie who are not Anglican (it doesn't) or who are girls (it does). It doesn't say anything about the other activities of the school aside from enrolment.

8. There may be discrimination in prohibiting same sex partners from attending because in organising the formal either the school or the facility providing the formal (or both) is providing a service and providing goods (drinks and food etc). Section 46 provides: "(1) A person who supplies goods or services (whether or not for reward or profit) must not discriminate against another person—
(a) by failing to supply the goods or services; or
(b) in the terms on which goods or services are supplied; or
(c) in the way in which goods or services are supplied; or
(d) by treating the other person unfavourably in any way in
connection with the supply of goods and services.
(2) In this section, a reference to a person who supplies goods and
services does not include an association that—
(a) is established for social, literary, cultural, political,
sporting, athletic, recreational, community service or
any other similar lawful purposes; and
(b) does not carry out its purposes for the purpose of
making a profit.

Churchie would have to make sure it fell within the exemption (it probably doesn't). The pub or function facility probably does not fall within the exemption- meaning it would indirectly discriminate by failing to allow the male partners to attend.

9. Could the ban on gay partners be based on religious grounds? No. Whilst there are specific exemptions in the Act to allow discrimination agaisnt gay teachers, ministers etc, there is no exemption for this behaviour.

10. Churchie could get an exemption if it applied to the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. However, this would require public consultation and the submission by the Commissioner, Susan Booth.

Finally, lawful sexual activity

The Courier-Mail reported that the age of consent generally is 16, but for gays is 16. This is incorrect. The age of consent is 16, anal sex (whether heterosexual or homosexual) is not lawful until 18. Other acts, such as oral sex, are lawful from 16.


Section 208 of the Criminal Code provides in part:
(1) Any person who—
(a) sodomises a person under 18 years; or
(b) permits a male person under 18 years to sodomise him
or her; ...commits a crime.

Section 210 of the Criminal Code provides in part:
(1) Any person who—
(a) unlawfully and indecently deals with a child under the
age of 16 years; or
(b) unlawfully procures a child under the age of 16 years to
commit an indecent act; or
(c) unlawfully permits himself or herself to be indecently
dealt with by a child under the age of 16 years; or
(d) wilfully and unlawfully exposes a child under the age of
16 years to an indecent act by the offender or any other
person; or
(e) without legitimate reason, wilfully exposes a child
under the age of 16 years to any indecent object or any
indecent film, videotape, audiotape, picture, photograph
or printed or written matter; or
(f) without legitimate reason, takes any indecent
photograph or records, by means of any device, any
indecent visual image of a child under the age of 16
years;
is guilty of an indictable offence.

Section 215 of the Criminal Code provides in part:
Any person who has or attempts to have unlawful carnal
knowledge with or of a child under the age of 16 years is
guilty of an indictable offence....In this section—
carnal knowledge does not include sodomy.

Section 218A of the Code provides in part:

Any adult who uses electronic communication with intent
to—
(a) procure a person under the age of 16 years, or a person
the adult believes is under the age of 16 years, to engage
in a sexual act, either in Queensland or elsewhere; or
(b) expose, without legitimate reason, a person under the
age of 16 years, or a person the adult believes is under
the age of 16 years, to any indecent matter,7 either in
Queensland or elsewhere;
commits a crime.

Complaint under Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act

This cannot be brought at the same time as that under the Queensland Act.

A similar scheme applies to the Queensland Act. The key test is whether there has been "sex discrimination".

This is defined as:

For the purposes of this Act, a person (in this subsection referred to as the discriminator ) discriminates against another person (in this subsection referred to as the aggrieved person ) on the ground of the sex of the aggrieved person if, by reason of:

(a) the sex of the aggrieved person;

(b) a characteristic that appertains generally to persons of the sex of the aggrieved person; or

(c) a characteristic that is generally imputed to persons of the sex of the aggrieved person;

the discriminator treats the aggrieved person less favourably than, in circumstances that are the same or are not materially different, the discriminator treats or would treat a person of the opposite sex....

For the purposes of this Act, a person (the discriminator) discriminates against another person (the aggrieved person ) on the ground of the sex of the aggrieved person if the discriminator imposes, or proposes to impose, a condition, requirement or practice that has, or is likely to have, the effect of disadvantaging persons of the same sex as the aggrieved person.



A refusal to allow the gay partner of a student to attend the formal appears on its face to be discriminating against that partner by virtue of their sex.

The discrimination can occur in the provision of goods and services, and is prohibited in the administration of Commonwealth funded programs, such as the funding of schools.

However, the Commonwealth Act has a large letout clause, not seen in the Queensland Act: there is an exemption for "any other act or practice of a body established for religious purposes, being an act or practice that conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of that religion or is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion".

Other exemptions under that Act may also apply.

There have been many comments on the Courier-Mail webpage, including by current and former Churchie students.

Churchie bans gay couples

TheCourier-Mail
has reported that Churchie, one of Queensland's leading boys' schools has banned gay students from bringing their partners along to the school formal, insisting that they bring girls.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

ILGA world map



ILGA, the International Lesbian and Gay Association has just released this map setting out international LGBTI rights.

Link to ILGA

Uniform laws on the way: Qld A-G

Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine has told the Courier-Mail that the Queensland Government welcomes the push by the Rudd government for sweeping uniform property laws for de facto couples- whether straight or same-sex - across Australia, and to be brought under the jurisdiction of the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court.

Uniform Anti-Discrimination laws?

In the current honeymoon of Federal/State relations, the Standing Committee of Attornies-General has recently announced that there will be uniform anti-discrimination laws in every State, Territory and by the Commonwealth.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said:

This has the potential to benefit not only business, who currently have to comply with inconsistent laws, but all Australians, who are entitled to expect equivalent rights regardless of the State or Territory in which they live”, Mr McClelland said.

Case: Not a defacto relationship

In Barker v. Linklater, a decision of the Queensland Court of Appeal, Dorothy Barker sued the estate of her deceased friend, trying to assert that they were in a long term lesbian relationship.

To establish a claim under the Succession Act, the appellant needed to prove she was the deceased’s spouse, namely her de facto partner, and that they had lived together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis for a period of at least two years and which ended on the deceased’s death. The definition is contained in s.32DA of the Acts Interpretation Act which provides a long list of types of factors to be taken into account.

Ms Barker was unsuccessful at trial and appealed.

The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the trial judge, who found:

-Dorothy Barker and the deceased were friends for a period in excess of 30 years;

-They shared the same residence for about 18 years;

-They did not share the same bedroom;

-They did not refer to each other as partners and there was no manifestation to the public at large that they were a couple;

-There were no overt signs of affection;

-While there was evidence of passionate kissing in 1977, there was no evidence of an ongoing sexual relationship;

-They kept their bank accounts and finances separate;

-Cars were purchased by each in the name of one only;

-The house was in the name of the deceased as was the telephone, and she paid the rates and telephone bills;

-Dorothy Barker kept her superannuation payout in an account in the name of her daughter and son-in-law;

-In the Will the deceased described Ms Barker as her carer, consistent with the deceased’s statement when asked by the Public Trustee as to the nature of the relationship;

-The parties shared household tasks;

-Ms Barker paid rent to the deceased and most expenses were shared equally.

The judge held that while there was clear evidence of companionship over a long period and some evidence of a sexual relationship at some time, evidence that the appellant had assisted with work around the house and evidence that the appellant was the deceased’s carer in her last years, the judge was not satisfied that that was sufficient to establish that the appellant was the deceased’s de facto partner at the time of the death. The judge was also not satisfied that the appellant was the deceased’s spouse, and dismissed the claim under the Succession Act.

The judge also dismissed a claim for a declaration for a constructive or resulting trust, also upheld on appeal.Muir JA said:




[Ms Barker]and the deceased each made contributions to the running expenses of the household during their cohabitation. Their contributions did not differ to any significant degree from contributions of the kind commonly made by persons sharing rented accommodation or, for that matter, by a person renting accommodation in a house owned by the other occupant, save that the appellant maintained the yard. Those are not circumstances in which a monetary or other contribution is made without an intention that the other party should enjoy the benefit provided by the contribution. Nor do such circumstances render it unconscionable for a house owner such as the deceased to retain whatever benefits may have been provided by the other person during the cohabitation. Any denial by the deceased that the appellant had an interest in the house would not have been unconscionable. The circumstances under consideration, in themselves, would not give rise to a reasonable expectation on the part of either of the appellant or the deceased that the appellant had acquired an interest in the property.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Gay anti-vilifcation case proceeds

A gun lobbyist and former councilor who sold anti-gay bumper stickers and allegedly claimed gay people were less than human was to face Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal today, according to Qld Pride.

For the full article click here.

Federal A-G tightlipped on changes

SX magazine reports that the Federal AG is tight-lipped on reform timeframe as activists step up civil unions campaign.

Workplace laws, privacy and education assistance are among the areas identified by the federal Attorney-General’s office as being discriminatory towards same-sex couples.

However the Attorney-General still refuses to be drawn on the specific timing of when solutions would be implemented to eradicate more than 100 areas of discrimination.


Full story

Government to remove same sex super discrimination

Senator Nick Sherry, Federal Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law has announced that the Rudd Government will be following through on its commitment to remove discrimination against same sex couples in superannuation where one of them is a Commonwealth public servant.

Senator Sherry did so in response to comments by Democrats Senator Andrew Murray.

Senator Sherry told the Senate:

What I can say
about same-sex couple amendments to public sector
superannuation is this, Senator Murray: yes, we gave a
commitment in the election. We gave that commitment:
I was the person who gave the commitment. We have
given commitments for a number of years, and we
have moved and supported amendments in this place
on a number of occasions. An announcement as to the
legislative process to deal with the issue will be made
shortly. There will be no attempt to go slow on this
issue. I understand the community groups involved in
lobbying know that the issue is being progressed, so
there will be an announcement shortly. As to when the
legislation comes in here—because it will go to some
other matters in terms of same-sex superannuation—it
will depend on the timetabling of the announcement.
The timetabling for it to be introduced to the parliament
will have to fit into the schedule. I believe I can
confidently say that—best efforts—it will be delivered.
An announcement will be made shortly, Senator
Murray. I cannot give you the exact date, for the reasons
I have outlined. I do not do not know when the
announcement of the formal details will be made and I
do not know when that will fit in with the legislative
time frame. I would be absolutely taken aback, Senator
Murray, if this matter was not resolved legislatively by
the end of this calendar year. I really would be taken
aback.