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Media updates – marriage equality debate in Australia

April 17, 2016 Leave a comment

 

marriage-equality-concept-gay-rights-43089788There have a few media articles that I would draw your attention to. They really highlight the roles of NGO lobby groups as well as media in pushing and shaping public attitudes towards the issue of marriage equality, as well as changing or consolidating the stance of key MPs involved in the legislative process.

The first media article has to do with the Catholic Church in Australia lobbying several CEOs of major Australian firms to stop supporting marriage equality. (‘Church told gay CEOs at Qantas, SBS to stop supporting marriage equality’, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 2016). Interestingly, two of these CEOs are themselves gay. These firms included Qantas, Telstra and a major law firm called Maurice Blackburn. These CEOs have previously stated their support for marriage equality, with Telstra’s CEO stating that this is about “equality” for him.

Thus far, it appears the counter-lobbying by the Catholic Church might have worked, with Telstra deciding to step back from its public support for marriage equality, prompting threats of boycotts by some LGBTI activists. However, other telecommunication firms like Vodafone have stated their support for marriage equality.

Why is corporate support for this issue significant? First of all, major corporations are major employers.  Therefore, their corporate policies, including employment and employee management policies help shape social norms. This includes integration of anti- homophobia and anti-discrimination policies. In this sense, they are ANOTHER example of a non-government organisation playing a role in shaping public perceptions and by extension, law reforms.

This news, incidentally, can be read in comparison with news from North Carolina and Mississippi about major firms (e.g. Microsoft, Google, Apple, K-Mart) expressing opposition to new state laws that discriminate against lesbians, gays and transgender persons, with major firms stating that they would reconsider whether to invest in North Carolina and Mississippi. (‘Anti-Gay Laws Bring Backlash in Mississippi and North Carolina’, New York Times, 5 April 2016)

Secondly, for major public corporations to step into the political turf war that is marriage equality debate throws further light on this issue. It also underlines the role of media in facilitating public awareness and discussions on this issue.

Second media article is about Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison sharing a stage with a prominent anti-gay rights activist, Eric Metaxas, in an upcoming Australian Christian Lobby conference. (‘Scott Morrison to share Australian Christian Lobby stage with anti-gay extremists‘, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 April 2016).  Metaxas has made several controversial statements about the marriage equality lobby, including comparing them to the rise of Nazism in Germany.  This article underlines one of the key roles that lobby groups have played in this issue, namely to connect with key MPs who are involved in the legislative process.  The same, incidentally, can also be said for Australian Marriage Equality and their lobbying of key MPs like Senator Wong (ALP) and the PM Malcolm Turnbull (Lib), both of whom attended the 2016 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras as supporters.

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‘Girl whose life got lost in red tape’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 18 October 2009)

October 18, 2009 Leave a comment

familyThis is clear indication of how under resourced the NSW Department of Community Services (DOCS) is, and the human consequences are extremely costly, especially for the victims of child abuse.  In this case, the victim is a nine-year old girl who died from starvation under her parents’ watch.

Girl whose life got lost in red tape‘ (Sydney Morning Herald, 18 October 2009)

Ebony was a prisoner in a house infested with cockroaches, mice and spiders, strewn with rubbish, and reeking of human waste.

DOCS personnel were made aware of this family, and classified the girl as ‘high risk’.  However, the case was in a mire of red tape.

That report was made by the Department of Housing, which was concerned about the filthy state of the Matraville house in which the family lived.

DOCS assessed the risk to the children to be ”high”, but its concerns were lost in a mire of red tape and seeming disinterest.

That report was made by the Department of Housing, which was concerned about the filthy state of the Matraville house in which the family lived.  DOCS assessed the risk to the children to be ”high”, but its concerns were lost in a mire of red tape and seeming disinterest.

That report was made by the Department of Housing, which was concerned about the filthy state of the Matraville house in which the family lived.

DOCS assessed the risk to the children to be ”high”, but its concerns were lost in a mire of red tape and seeming disinterest.

‘Brides in rush to registry’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 18 October 2009)

October 18, 2009 2 comments

familyOne of the social trend in Australia is the increasing secularisation of our society, and this trend has strong impact on the institution of marriage.  The following article pose some statistics that illustrate such trend.

‘Brides in rush to registry’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 18 October 2009)

CIVIL wedding ceremonies are outstripping religious weddings, with brides and grooms keener than ever to get hitched away from church.

Figures show civil ceremonies are now almost twice as popular as church weddings, confirming a trend that began in 2002.

Civil ceremonies overtook religious ceremonies then, with 17,613 church services compared with 18,192 non-church weddings.

So far this year there have been 27,350 marriages in NSW, 17,469 conducted by civil celebrants.

Religion is losing its place as a mean of formalising marriages.  Another statistics is also interesting, the number of people of going through second and third marriages.  According to Anne Hollands from Relationship Australia,

Also, a lot of marriages are second and third marriages, and people are less likely to splash out as much.

CIVIL wedding ceremonies are outstripping religious weddings, with brides and grooms keener than ever to get hitched away from church.
Figures show civil ceremonies are now almost twice as popular as church weddings, confirming a trend that began in 2002.
Civil ceremonies overtook religious ceremonies then, with 17,613 church services compared with 18,192 non-church weddings.
So far this year there have been 27,350 marriages in NSW, 17,469 conducted by civil celebrantsCIVIL wedding ceremonies are outstripping religious weddings, with brides and grooms keener than ever to get hitched away from church.
Figures show civil ceremonies are now almost twice as popular as church weddings, confirming a trend that began in 2002.
Civil ceremonies overtook religious ceremonies then, with 17,613 church services compared with 18,192 non-church weddings.
So far this year there have been 27,350 marriages in NSW, 17,469 conducted by civil celebrants.
Categories: family law Tags: ,

‘Transsexuals win appeal against sex ruling’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 18 August 2009)

August 19, 2009 Leave a comment

genderSometimes landmark legal cases can have unintended consequences and ramifications.  This peculiar news story is a case in point.

Transsexuals win appeal against sex ruling‘ (Sydney Morning Herald, 18 August 2009)

The case concerns two persons in Western Australia who were born biologically ‘female’ and had decided to change their gender to ‘male’.  They had already commenced hormonal treatment, and they have been taking testosterone treatment that would ensured their continual infertility.  However, neither persons have had oophorectomy, which is an operation that removes the ovaries.  Also, both persons have not yet removed their female genitalia.  Nonetheless, these two individuals applied to the Western Australian Gender Reassignment Board to have their gender reassigned from female to male.  The Board rejected their applications on the ground that their genitalia still remains the characteristics of female.  The two persons then appealed to the WA State Administrative Tribunal, which overturned the Board’s decision, thus granting them legal recognition as ‘male’.

On the face of it, this seems like a landmark case that suggests one does not need to go through the full transgender operation to be legally recognised as ‘male’, or vice versa.  Certainly this is how the media seem to have portrayed it.

Two West Australian female-to-male transsexuals have won the right to be considered men without having to undergo surgery on their reproductive organs.

However, if you read the article more carefully, it really refers specifically to how Gender Reassignment Act 2000 (WA) is to be interpreted.  In this case, the tribunal

noted that a surgical procedure was not a requirement of the state’s Gender Reassignment Act.

In other word, the case is not as groundbreaking as it appears.  In fact, an argument can be made that the legislation is badly written.  Nonetheless, there is no question that the case will generate discussions in the community that would lead to debates about gender divides.

The case also highlights a further problem.  Under Marriage Act 1961 (Cth), a legal marriage is between a ‘man’ and a woman.  Does this mean these ‘men’, who still have female genitalias, can legally marry other women?  Which jurisdiction defines gender, Commonwealth or State?  Why isn’t definition of gender under exclusive Commonwealth jurisdiction, since family and marriage are already under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth government?

Do not be surprised to see this case go all the way to the High Court.

”Rough justice’ fear in Family Court blitz’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 9 August 2009)

August 8, 2009 Leave a comment

familyThis article highlights a major problem of efficiency within our family law system, the lack of available judges for family court.

‘Rough justice’ fear in Family Court blitz‘ (Sydney Morning Herald, 9 August 2009)

THE Family Court will fly judges to Sydney from four other states for a September blitz in an attempt to clear a backlog of 30 of its most difficult cases.

But the exercise has sparked fears of hasty, second-rate justice in disputes that determine the economic and emotional wellbeing of children and families.

Some of the cases in this backlog are over four years old.  The special sitting will be done in a compressed timetable.  This creates some serious problems in terms of natural justice.

During the planned ”special sitting”, the cases will be dispatched over a three-week period with the help of judges from Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Melbourne. But some lawyers will not be able to represent their clients in years-old cases because of clashes in the compressed timetable.

One barrister said many were trying to get out of the chaotic exercise, which would produce ”very rough justice”.

‘Bar-Ilan prof. seeks global standard for fair divorce’ (Jerusalem Post, 3 August 2009)

August 5, 2009 Leave a comment

divorceThis proposal for a global standard for fair divorce by Israeli professor of law, Ruth Halperin-Kaddari is quite interesting.  It will probably face some initial difficulties, but the ensuing dialogues and conversations might in the long run bring about some paradigm shift about divorce and human rights.

Bar-Ilan prof. seeks global standard for fair divorce (Jerusalem Post, 3 August 2009)

A longtime legal advocate for women’s rights in Israel is poised to create a new international standard to protect women seeking divorce.

Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, a law professor at Bar-Ilan University, says dissolving a marriage or partnership can have severe economic consequences for women.

As vice president of a UN committee on women’s rights, she has led a working group on the economic impact of divorce since last year; on Tuesday, she will address the full committee, thereby launching the drafting process for new international guidelines that account for women’s housing rights and recognize their earning potential during divorce proceedings.

In UN terminology, Kaddari is seeking a new “general recommendation” for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The new article would lay out economic protections for those seeking divorce, says Kaddari, chairwoman of the Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan.

Such a recommendation would have legal authority under the UN convention, the apparatus adopted in 1979 to guard women’s rights and prevent gender-based discrimination and violence. The convention has been amended a number of times since then, notably in 1992, when the committee issued general recommendation No. 19 to fight and eradicate violence against women.

Things have developed since then… we know much more about laws and how they affect women, especially the economics of marriage and the economics of divorce, and the economic consequences of divorce,” Kaddari said.

Categories: family law, human rights, Women Tags:

‘British Scientists Claim to Create Human Sperm’ (VOA News, 9 July 2009)

August 4, 2009 Leave a comment

foster careIf this birth technology is developed further, and I am inclined to believe that it will, the implications for family law will be gigantic.

British Scientists Claim to Create Human Sperm‘ (VOA News, 9 July 2009)

Scientists in Britain report they have created the first artificial human sperm from stem cells.
Researchers at the University of Newcastle and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute said Wednesday they developed a new technique to make human sperm in a laboratory. They said the resulting cells showed characteristics of sperm, displaying heads, tails, chromosomes and movement.

Scientists in Britain report they have created the first artificial human sperm from stem cells.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute said Wednesday they developed a new technique to make human sperm in a laboratory. They said the resulting cells showed characteristics of sperm, displaying heads, tails, chromosomes and movement.

This technology is far from mature.  It is still in its early stage of development.  The stated aim of the research is to assist infertile men with fertility problem.  Thus far, they have been able to grow mice out of this type of sperms, but thus far they have life span of only a few months.

While it is currently illegal under British law to produce human embryos from manufactured sperm, it is most likely that this technology will continue to develop.  Science and technology aside, the legal questions that this kind of birth technology will raise are plentiful.  For example, who would be the legal ‘parents’ of such child?  Would this lead to a new model of family arrangement?

Many questions and no definitive answers.