Karl Hand

With the addition of Australian Marriage Equality’s Alex Greenwich to “Team Clover" — led by Mayor Clover Moore — for the City of Sydney council election, it seems that the pink dollar has finally found itself a political party. The political force of upwardly mobile, affluent lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people has only recently come into its own.
This winter, I experienced the hospitality of Jarrod McKenna, Teresa Lee and their son Tyson. They’re a family of peace activists, who ruggedly live out communal economics and radical permaculture in Peace Tree Community in Perth. They opened their home to me so that I could take a week out to write in peace.
Churchgoers all over Sydney heard official statements from their denominations on June 17 with a firm and united message: “Marriage is only for heterosexual couples.” I needed to see this for myself, so I and four gay Christian friends summoned our courage and attended the evening service at St Andrew's Cathedral.
The rhetoric of homophobia is changing in our society. Those on the conservative side of the debate no longer make any mention of the Bible, morality or mental health. Instead, they claim they are motivated by love to oppress gay people. Recently, I sat in the NSW legislative council (in which Reverend Fred Nile, MLC, is the honorary chaplain of the house) and watched the debate on marriage equality.
More than 1000 Sydneysiders hit the streets on May 12 demanding equal marriage rights, but prominent left-wing journalist John Pilger criticised the march in his recent article “Bradley Manning, not gay marriage, is the issue”.
Liberal backbenchers will have a “conscience vote” when a proposal for marriage equality is put to parliament. This puts the equality campaign closer to victory in Australia than it has ever been before. Members of the shadow cabinet, including junior frontbenchers, will still be required to maintain the party position, which will be decided unilaterally by Liberal leader Tony Abbott, and therefore bound to vote against marriage equality.
A Buddhist monk has set himself on fire in what is believed to have been a protest for Tibetan independence, the BBC said on February 9. The immolation follows a series of pro-independence protests in Sichuan, an ethnically Tibetan region of southwest China, which is outside of the Tibetan autonomous region. The incident was said to be the 20th self-immolation by Tibetan Buddhists since 2011.
This year, the rules of the game have changed drastically. The ALP now supports marriage equality, and the Greens submitted its Marriage Amendment Bill 2010 to a senate inquiry on January 26. The problem is the numbers in parliament. The ALP has allowed a conscience vote, which means its MPs can vote against party policy, while Liberal Party members are required to vote against marriage equality.   
The ban on marriage between persons of the same sex is an assault on the basic human dignity of same-sex attracted people. It subjects them to a damaging social stigma, a new report by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has now recognised. The document surveys 10 recent psychiatric studies that explore the consequences of the marriage ban on test-samples of thousands of everyday people.
In the lead up to the ALP National Conference next month, marriage equality is shaping up to be the biggest test yet to Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s leadership. Gillard has moved from her position that she would override a pro-equality decision at the conference, to hinting she will allow Labor MPs a conscience vote. However, she now also holds the dubious honour of being the only remaining Labor leader supporting the marriage ban.
… and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage. — John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath. In my spare moments, I have been collecting Christian responses to the Occupy Wall Street movement. A few common themes have emerged.
In what conservative columnists are describing as a martyrdom for Christian lefties, the iconic “jeans and T-shirt” canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, Reverend Rev Dr Giles Fraser, has resigned in protest as the cathedral moves to evict Occupy London from its steps. Fraser, a lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford, has written for a number of radical newspapers including the Socialist Worker. Fraser advocates for marriage equality and understands the Christian message to mean solidarity with the oppressed.
In the predominantly Roman Catholic city of Manila, a small group of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) are preaching a message of inclusion and social justice that has angered the religious hierarchy. Now, their practice of blessing same-sex marriages has resulted in leaders of the Catholic Church in Manila threatening legal action, and calling for MCC to be stripped of its right to solemnise marriage ceremonies. On June 25, the MCC of Metro Baguio hosted a Holy Union of eight same sex couples at the Ayuyang Bar in Baguio City. 
The Roman Catholic Church has sacked the bishop of Toowoomba after 18 years of service for his belief that women can be priests. In his 2006 Advent pastoral letter to priests in his diocese, Bishop William Morris questioned the practice of sourcing Catholic priests from Africa, and suggested the shortage of Catholic priests in Australia would be better addressed by considering admitting married men and women to the priesthood. Morris met with Pope Benedict in 2009 about his views. He is now taking “early retirement” at age 67. The usual retirement age for bishops is 75.
In the past few decades, Christian and Muslim theologies have been misinterpreted and used tactically against Middle Eastern dictatorships with no success. For instance, former US president George W Bush justified the “war on terror” as a fight against an “axis of evil” and called for a new Crusade to liberate the people of the Middle East. This use of Christian theological concepts to justify the war in the Middle East requires a lot of spin.
Since 2004, a mass mobilisation of popular support for marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people has gained momentum, and now a possible victory is in sight. But sadly, marriage equality would not mean an end to homophobia or transphobia in Australia. Lurking behind Australia’s marriage ban is an even more sinister injustice clothed in the language of religious tolerance.


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