Monday, 19 January 2015

Will the LNP try to criminalise gay, lesbian and single intended parents through surrogacy?

At the last Queensland election, then Opposition Leader Campbell Newman stated that there would be no changes to Queensland's surrogacy laws. Will he do so this time?

By June 2012, the Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, who has been silent in this campaign, said that the Newman government would wind back two areas:

  • non-biological lesbian mums would no longer have legal recognition 
  • the Surrogacy Act would be amended, in essence to criminalise single, gay and lesbian intended parents
The first proposal was dropped quickly, after it became apparent that Queensland would be out of step with all other States and Territories and the Commonwealth.

The Premier then said that his position before the State election was not firm, that he had been caught, in effect, on the hop. There was then a furious battle in Queensland seeking to influence Government views and public opinion- the Australian Christian Lobby who very much supported what the Attorney wanted to do, and others including Queenslanders for Equality, of which I was convenor, and the Labor Opposition, who wanted no change so that the law remained non-discriminatory.

By April 2014, the Government's position had seemingly changed. Sources told the Brisbane Times that the policy was dead and buried. The formal position of the Government remained the same- that the Government was considering the position and that there was no fixed position of the Government. That remains the Government's formal position.

I had been told by a senior government source that the Premier was strongly opposed to the proposal, but that the Attorney-General remained strongly in favour of the change, and if given the opportunity would revive the proposal. 

It is quite possible, if the polls are to be believed that:

  • the Premier will not be re-elected for Ashgrove
  • the Government will have a small majority
  • the Attorney will be re-elected in his seat
  • without the veto of the Premier, the Attorney may be able to persuade his fellow LNP MP's that the surrogacy laws ought be changed.
Tonight I attended the LGBTI forum between the candidates for Brisbane Central, including current LNP MP Rob Cavallucci, and former ALP MP Grace Grace. In response to my question about whether the Government's formal position matched its policy, Mr Cavallucci made it plain that he had strongly lobbied Government Ministers against the proposal, and as far as he was concerned the proposal is dead and buried. That may well be the case, but it is not formal Government policy. 

Will Mr Newman publicly state that the policy is dead and buried, and that there will categorically be no changes to the Surrogacy Act during the next term of Parliament to ban surrogacy for single, gay and lesbian intended parents? Hopefully we will know in the next two weeks.

LGBTI ask the candidates tonight

Tonight there will be a candidates’ forum for the candidates for Brisbane Central to discuss their response to LGBTI issues. The candidates include the LNP member Rob Cavallucci and ALP candidate and former member Grace Grace.

The forum is at 6.45pm at the Sportsman's Hotel, Spring Hill.

It made me think of what changes there ought to be, and came up with this list:
·         A commitment to equal treatment of all of our citizens under the law, irrespective of their sexuality, gender, relationship status and sexual orientation. This seems to have been one of the bases of our democracy since its inception, but at times it seems to be honoured in the breach than the observance.
·         A commitment to same sex marriage. Yes, I know it is not a state but a federal issue, but the more commitment that there is by prominent party members to change, the higher the chance that change federally will happen sooner rather than later.
·         A commitment to ensure non-discrimination in surrogacy.  The Surrogacy Act, enacted when the ALP was in power, does not discriminate against single, gay or lesbian intended parents. In 2012 Jarrod Bleijie announced that it was going to be changed so that single, gay and lesbian parents could not access surrogacy (and would be punished if they tried). As convenor of Queenslanders for Equality, I lobbied against the proposed changes. The ALP backed the fight against the changes, as did local member Rob Cavallucci. By 2013 the Government reportedly quietly shelved the proposal, but the formal position of the Government has remained -  that the proposal is being considered. The only consideration that should be given to the proposal at this stage is that it ought to be dumped. Given that the Premier went to the last State election saying that there would be no change to surrogacy laws, and then the Attorney took a different position, resulting in a great tumult about what the Government’s position was, clarity is essential.
·         A preparedness to consider commercial surrogacy, and not prosecute those who go overseas. Gay couples in particular are especially in need of surrogacy. The reality is that many go overseas because the rules here make surrogacy here so difficult. The Chief Justice of the Family Court, Diana Bryant, and the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court, John Pascoe, have called for the abolition of rules criminalising those going overseas for commercial surrogacy, and called for an inquiry about compensated surrogacy in Australia. Although hundreds of Queenslanders have gone overseas for commercial surrogacy, not one person has yet been prosecuted, making the laws to be a mockery.
·         A removal of discrimination about adoption. The fact that adoption rates have crashed to their lowest ever is beside the point. The Adoption Act should not discriminate. It does. The only people allowed to adopt are married or heterosexual de facto couples. Single and gay and lesbian couples are good enough to be foster carers, but bizarrely not good enough to adopt. The discrimination, which appears not be based on anything but prejudice, ought to go.
·         Equal age of consent. When Wayne Goss in 1990 decriminalised gay sex, it was a great leap forward. Now in 2014, Queensland is behind every other state and territory. Why is it all right for the age of consent to be 16, except when it comes to anal sex, where it is 18? There appears to be no logic for the difference.
·         Gay panic defence. A commitment in accordance with calls by law academic Dr Alan Berman to get rid of gay panic defence. Just because someone comes onto you sexually (even without touching you) is no excuse for killing them. Currently it might be. It ought to go.
·         Removal of discrimination in employment. When Peter Beattie got rid of most discrimination against LGBTI people in Queensland law in 2002, the churches kicked up a stink to make sure that teachers who were gay or lesbian could be sacked, based on their sexuality. There are no doubt many gay or lesbian teachers- whose jobs are at risk because of this antiquated rule. Again, there is no logic and it ought to go.
·         Fixing up the mess for trans people altering their birth certificates. Changes many years ago means that a trans person can get the gender changes on their birth certificates, via a convoluted process- but only if they are not married! If they are married, and want to get it changed, they have to divorce, a process that is not just nuts, but also harsh.
·         The ability to have public ceremonies for civil partnerships. The Bligh government enacted civil partnerships as a dying act. Newman did not repeal them, but got rid of their public aspect. Why can’t a couple celebrate their love, in public?
·         Adequate funding for HIV prevention and support services. One of the controversies shortly after being elected was the stripping by Lawrence Springborg of QAC’s funding. Since then the HIV Foundation has been set up- but infection rates remain stubbornly on the rise. The funding of HIV prevention and support services should not be the political football, but should be supported in as bipartisan way as possible to help prevent the spread of the disease, and to help those who have HIV/Aids.