I remember my first ever Gay Pride march. I was in my mid-20s at the time. Trying to get into the after party on the streets of Adelaide, I had to negotiate my way through angry preachers waving placards linking homosexuality with murder and rape.
Even though I’d been out of the closet for a few years, the experience left me feeling shocked, angry and scared. Fast-forward nearly a decade and I shudder to think what would happen if this kind of hate was amplified by a national plebiscite on marriage equality. If these preachers weren’t just waving placards but were armed with the powerful megaphone that a plebiscite would provide.
This week, a horrific hate crime targeting a gay nightclub in Orlando has devastated LGBTI communities and their allies right across the world.
It is a stark and sobering reminder that acts of violence are still an all too real experience for many LGTBI people, even in places known for their liberal values and ideals of equality. Despite all we’ve achieved in the journey for human rights, prejudice and homophobia persist as dangerous forces in our world.
This week we marked International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. It’s an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come on the road to equality for LGBTI people, but also to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead.
Here in Australia we have much to be proud of. Community attitudes have changed considerably and LGBTI people are more visible than ever before. Yet despite this, the parliament continues to lag behind when it comes to eliminating discrimination under the law. Discrimination in the Marriage Act has been a hot-button political issue for many years in Australia. It is now no longer a matter of ‘if’ we will see marriage equality but ‘when.’ And hopefully we will get there without Turnbull’s $160 million plebiscite!
I was about 10 when I was first called a “fag” and a “poof”. At that time I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t a compliment. The names had a new sting when I realised that I was gay and even though I was in the closet for my teenage years, it seemed there was no fooling the kids in the school yard. The idea of coming out and being open about my sexuality filled me with dread.
There’s no doubt that Australia has changed a lot since I was at school. There are far more gay people in public life and popular culture and differences in sexuality are discussed much more openly. That’s a wonderful thing. But unfortunately homophobia is still alive and well in the school yard and, as demonstrated last week, in parliament.
Speech from Senate Hansard, Monday 22 February 2016
Senator SIMMS (South Australia) (22:10): I was about to leave for the night and then I saw Senator Bernardi jumping to his feet and launching into yet another of his famous diatribes about the Safe Schools Coalition and diversity within the schoolyard and I felt compelled to respond. Of course this is not an isolated attack from Senator Bernardi on the Safe Schools Coalition or the idea of even talking about differences in sexuality or gender identity within our schools; it is part of an ongoing crusade. I think it is important to put some of the facts on the table here.
Speech from Senate Hansard, 2 February 2016.
Watch the speech on You-Tube here.
Madam Acting Deputy President, a happy new parliamentary year to you. I rise tonight to talk about a matter that will be of importance to all Australians who value equality and diversity. I refer to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to speak at an event hosted by the gay-hate group Alliance Defending Freedom in the United States last week.
This was a brazen slap in the face to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Australians and their loved ones. Mr Abbott might hold conservative views—his conservative views are well known—but he is no ordinary politician. He is a former Prime Minister of this country. Having held that important office—indeed, the highest office in the land—he is considered an ambassador for our country. Like it or not—I have to say I do not like it—that is the reality. With that in mind, he should think very carefully about the causes with which he associates.
Speech from Senate Hansard, 25 November 2015.
You can watch the speech on You-Tube here.
This afternoon I rise to speak about an event I recently attended in my home state of South Australia, hosted by an organisation doing good work across our country, the Minus18’s same-sex and gender diverse formal. I attended this event in Adelaide on 13 November. This was the first time that a same-sex and gender diverse formal had been hosted in Adelaide, and it was attended by 120 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people. Members of this place may be aware that similar events have been hosted in Victoria, but this was a first for South Australia. I do hope that it is the first of many such events in SA in the future.
When Malcolm Turnbull seized the Prime Ministership from Tony Abbott two months ago, the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief. At last, we might have something that looks a bit more like a 21st century government, rather than the Jurassic Park we had come to expect during the Abbott era.
One issue that came to represent the Abbott government’s archaic world view was marriage equality. Most Australians looked on in disbelief as the Prime Minister concocted one elaborate excuse after another to prevent progress, eventually settling on a plebiscite as a last-ditch attempt to head off a free vote in the parliament.
Australia’s universities are vital to our nation’s future. This is not only because they are fundamental to the growth of our economy but because they are an essential public good. Universities are more than just degree factories; they provide pathways for citizens to realise their dreams and to reach their potential. They provide opportunities to exchange ideas, reflect on our world and find solutions. They are vital to the civic life of our country.
That’s why the economic rationalist approach of Labor and the Liberal party is so damaging. By casting students simply as consumers who pay for a product (education) in order to secure a job, Australia is diminishing the inherent value of education. Education is not merely a means to an end, but rather an end in itself.
Speech from Senate Hansard, 13 October 2015.
Watch the speech on You-Tube here.
Thank you, Mr President. I start by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land, the Ngunawal people. I acknowledge their elders past and present. This is, and it will always be, Aboriginal land.
Mr President, it is an honour to stand here today as the third member of the South Australian Greens to represent my party in the national parliament and as the 99th person to represent South Australia in the Senate.
Today is Coming Out Day, an opportunity to celebrate the importance of pride and reflect on my own personal journey with sexuality.
I was 12 when I realised I was gay. It was a pretty frightening thing at the time. I didn’t know any gay people or have any sense of what a gay life might be like so my impressions were largely shaped by the caricatures I saw on TV.
For many years at primary school other kids used to joke that they thought I was gay, well before I had even thought about it. That experience always lead me to believe that being gay was not really something a man should aspire to be.
Buoyed by growing momentum for marriage equality, Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek is leading the charge for her party to put its money where its mouth is by making support for this reform binding.
While some in Labor’s right flank might resent being forced to toe the line, ultimately the ALP only stands to gain should it finally show some backbone on this human rights issue.
“Can a soufflé rise twice?” was the question asked by former prime minister Paul Keating following his adversary, Andrew Peacock’s return to the Liberal leadership.
In the end, Peacock’s leadership fell flat but it hasn’t deterred other politicians from attempting comebacks. John Howard, Kim Beazley and Kevin Rudd all tried political resurrection – while in the United States, Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney are considering comebacks of their own.
The passing of former prime minister Gough Whitlam yesterday saw the eruption of a rare period of multi-partisanship as figures from across the political spectrum paid tribute to the man who changed the nation.
Among them were the Greens who shared an image online celebrating Whitlam’s abolition of university fees in 1974. The image, accompanied with the text, ‘Whitlam’s legacy for a progressive Australia will be remembered – Vale Gough Whitlam’ and a Greens logo, was met with ire from some Labor MPs who accused the party of “body snatching” and “appropriating a leader’s death” for their own political ends.