Rodney Croome and Brian Greig predict LGBTIQ rights battles will heat up in 2021, with big challenges and opportunities ahead. They say it’s time to get more allies on board and focus on local campaigning.
Rodney Croome and Brian Greig are long-time Australian LGBTIQ human rights advocates. Both are recipients of the Order of Australia for their work.
2021 will be a nightmare year for LGBTIQ human rights, unless our community campaigns effectively, and moderate Liberals and Labor grow a spine.
The Religious Discrimination Bill will return.
The Religious Discrimination Bill seeks to roll back existing discrimination protections for LGBTIQ people under cover of ‘religious freedom’. It particularly targets Tasmanians who enjoy the most robust protections in the nation.
We are certain it will return because right-wing religious factions in both major parties are positioning themselves for the crusade.
The most anti-LGBTIQ Government this century
Scott Morrison just promoted two more strongly anti-LGBTIQ evangelicals to his Cabinet, including Amanda Stoker as assistant Attorney-General.
The current Federal Cabinet is now the most ideologically opposed to LGBTIQ equality this century.
Unfortunately, the Catholic right of the Labor Party is also on the rise.
It has convinced large parts of the ALP that defending LGBTIQ rights is a vote loser in precisely those places — western Sydney and regional Queensland — Labor must win to gain Government.
This is electoral myth-making at its most cynical. However, it has held Labor back from opposing the Religious Discrimination Bill.
The LGBTIQ community’s goal should be to hold Labor to a party vote and encourage Liberal moderates to oppose the Bill.
To achieve this, we must highlight the damage the Bill will do and champion the laws it will override.
Our community must also work more closely with other groups the Bill will disadvantage like people with disability, women, religious minorities and Indigenous people.
The same goes for the vicious, grinding campaign against trans equality and the moral panic about school inclusion programs, both of which will escalate in 2021.
One Nation’s Pauline Hanson and Mark Latham have introduced repressive bills on both issues.
These bills are unlikely to go anywhere. Nevertheless, they will drag both major parties further to the right on LGBTIQ issues as skittish party strategists try to poach back One Nation voters.
Our community’s response should be to organise national grassroots campaigns that engage the media, politicians and the public.
We’re talking about campaigns like those on marriage equality between 2010 and 2015 which empowered activists and community groups at a local level and moved the reform to the point where it won a majority Yes vote in 2017.
2021 won’t be all bad.
Victoria is likely to pass gold-standard legislation against conversion practices thanks to the best-practice community campaign run by survivor advocates.
Other states considering the issue must match or exceed the Victorian gold-standard. They must not allow claims about ‘religious freedom’ to obscure the truth that young LGBTIQ people are still being tortured and destroyed by an ideology that says they are broken.
In 2019 Tasmania passed world best laws that both recognise and protect trans and gender diverse people. Other states should emulate these, again without skimping on issues like allowing people the choice to remove gender from their birth certificates.
Tasmanians are also currently lobbying to ban coercive non-medical surgeries on children with intersex variations of sex characteristics. This is based on recommendations from the state’s Law Reform Institute and builds on an existing Tasmanian law that was the first of its kind in Australia to ban discrimination against intersex people.
In 2020 the state’s Law Reform Institute provided a model for such a ban. Other states would do well to consider similar legislation.
Meanwhile, the West Australian Labor Government’s expected re-election in March will hopefully see WA move forward a range of overdue reforms like conversion practices, special discrimination exemptions for faith schools and transgender recognition.
The McGowan Government will possibly win both houses of parliament. If advocates then raise their voices loudly enough, WA might well leapfrog the other states.
Other LGBTIQ Human Rights Issues in 2021
– Removing existing exemptions that allow discrimination against LGBTIQ people if they work for, or buy services from, any faith-based organisation
– Reforming hate speech laws, so they equally protect LGBTIQ people against vilifying, humiliating and intimidating language
– Explicitly protecting trans and gender diverse people in the Fair Work Act
Knock on the locked doors
Just as important as any individual issue is the attitude we adopt as we stave off prejudice and seek equality.
We should expect justice and not anticipate rejection by asking for less than what we need.
Attacks against us as opportunities we should use to foster a more accepting Australia by making our case and telling our stories.
We should abjure compromises and concessions. However, if they are necessary to progress reform, the LGBTIQ community should be consulted. Self-appointed advocates should not decide on the community’s behalf.
Above all, we should knock on locked doors, not walk through open ones, because behind those locks are treasures of freedom and inclusion