It’s been nearly five years since I stood in the echoic expanse that is St Kilda Town Hall and collected the small pot of native flora that marked my acceptance as an Australian citizen. A privilege that was afforded to me by way of my partner.
(Image courtesy of: http://tizona.wordpress.com/2009/02/11/australian-flag-collection/)
In the time that followed I have worked for the Australian Government, celebrated the birth of my twin boys, integrated my family into a tightly knit community and travelled extensively, with my family, throughout Australia and the world. This Australia Day will mark the fourth occasion where my neighbours will join me and my family as we spill out from our houses and enjoy a street party while strengthening the community ties that we all enjoy.
And all this as an out and proud gay man.
You may think this is all rather unremarkable, after all same-sex attracted men and women are an increasingly visible part of Australian society. But it has not always been so. It was not until 2008 that the then Labor government, through a rare act of bipartisan support, introduced legislation to bring greater equality for same-sex attracted people and their families. This had a significant impact from cradle to grave, including opening up access to assisted reproductive technologies and allowing for appropriate inheritance rights. Today in Australia I can be secure in the knowledge that if anything were to happen to my partner, my children and I will be both financially secure and legally protected.
As I look around the world I am grateful that I live in Australia. In India homosexuality has recently been re-criminalised. In Russia it is an offense to talk positively about being homosexual, and Vladimir Putin has assured gay and lesbian competitors that they will not be hassled at the upcoming Winter Olympics as long as they don’t talk to children! In Gulf Cooperation Countries officials are exploring the slightly ludicrous possibility of developing medical tests to detect homosexuality in order to prevent same-sex attracted expats from entering these states. Both Uganda and Nigeria have just passed strict anti-homosexuality laws, and five countries (Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Yemen and Saudi Arabia) have legislation in place that allows the punishment of homosexuality with death. When reflecting on what my life might be like in some of these countries it is hard not to feel proud to be Australian.
But Australia is not perfect. Our first attempts at marriage equality in the ACT were overturned when the Federal Government challenged the legislation in the High Court just before Christmas. While countries such as the United Kingdom (where I am also incidentally a citizen) move towards full marriage equality this year, Australia continues to drag its feet. Despite our research here at the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program suggesting that children with same-sex attracted parents are doing really well overall, politicians such as Cory Bernardi continue to promulgate negative views about non-traditional families. This negativity has a significant impact on families like mine.
This Australia Day we should all be proud of our country for the leaps and bounds it has taken in providing equality for same-sex attracted people and their families. But we should not forget that the long journey to equality is not over here at home, and certainly not over for many homosexual people abroad.
Advance Australia, nay the world, fair!
By Dr Simon R Crouch
Lead Investigator, The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families