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Tag Archives: LGBTQI

Calling on the Straights

The overthrow of Roe v Wade in America is just the start. And Australia’s Right, from the political figures connected by think tanks to the conspiracy-radicalised internet subculture, draws its ideas and strategies from the American Right.

It is incumbent upon us to watch that nation’s collapse as a warning, not just as a prequel to a dystopian blockbuster trilogy.

It is critical to avoid dismissing shocking concepts as fringe. What begins as an outlier idea moves to the centre of mainstream discussion in America and beyond. The “norm cascade” that Trump enabled has meant that it is not just, say, the creep in the office uttering something previously unutterable. People with great cultural capital are making unthinkable ideas “normal.” State politicians are beginning to ask for the death penalty for women who access abortions, and senior Republicans have begun discussing making abortion illegal nationwide when they next hold power.

The Texas attorney general has signalled his willingness to take a law making homosexuality illegal through to the Supreme Court should he have the chance. A Republican candidate in South Carolina’s primaries recently called for LGBTQI Americans to be pursued for treason, and executed. He received a quarter of the vote.

The Texas Republican Party platform, launched this Pride Month, named LGBTQI lives “an abnormal lifestyle choice.” Approximately 340 bills targeting LGBTQI existence have been introduced across America this year. The leader of the Christian Fascist organisation Protect Texas Kids tweeted, “Let’s start rounding up people who participate in Pride events,” and other figures on the Right have begun imagining a world where it is legal to hunt LGBTQI people.

Blue states are reacting by offering safe haven for safe reproductive healthcare. California is in the process of passing a sanctuary bill to allow families of trans youth sanctuary. Should the bill be signed, their own deeply Republican state will be blocked from extraditing the parents to face life sentence felony charges. These sanctuaries would also block Republican states’ custody orders to remove children of trans families from their parents.

Vigilante activity and abuse of LGBTQI individuals have surged. People have begun working out how to leave their lives behind to move state or are making sure to keep passports current.

The grotesque Westboro “Baptist Church” used to protest gleefully at dead soldier’s funerals because the degeneracy of America meant that they deserved to die. Now Jordan Peterson, one of the “thought” leaders of the Right, has said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is justified by Ukraine’s connection with the degenerate US. Echoing Putin’s own bigoted justification is shocking enough; the fringe, this shows too, has become mainstream.

The patriarchal and “traditional role” passions of the radical Right make women and children lightening rods to channel “moral” panic. They generate disinformation to suggest cis women are endangered by having trans women in their spaces. They abhor trans men for making women unavailable to them. Above all, they depict LGBTQI existence as a threat to children, since “won’t someone think of the children” is the most primal emotive persuasive strategy.

For this reason, schools have been the focus of much of the legislation and protest. Teachers are depicted as “groomers” and “perverts” for accepting a non-binary student’s pronouns or mentioning the existence of people who aren’t vanilla.

Christopher Rufo, the American who invented the CRT panic, where he depicted schools as teaching Critical Race Theory, found a wellspring of emotional energy into which to tap. Critical Race Theory is a law school concept where academics study the impact of laws that were designed to disadvantage Black people. It was never a school study. Labelling any study of history that aims to represent the balanced truth – rather than bowdlerised pap – as CRT, however, has given the Right a tool to make teachers’ lives a nightmare.

One Texas committee recommended teaching slavery in elementary school as “involuntary relocation.” Now Ohio is introducing a law to require teaching “both sides” of the Holocaust.

Groups of disinformation-radicalised parents and outsiders appear at school board meetings in threatening fashion to intimidate staff. Issues about sexuality and gender are Rufo’s new target. This whips up further the Trump base’s QAnon radicalisation; they believe children are being abducted, raped, murdered and/or farmed for youth-extending hormones. Now they are targeting their teachers as the key threat. Tucker Carlson, for example, asked why fathers aren’t beating up teachers for discussing anything connected with LGBTQI existence.

State school teachers, already exhausted by the pandemic and extreme underfunding, are leaving the profession. This suits the Republicans fine because the dismantling of public education is a key project of a number of their main funders. Often emerging from fossil fuel wealth, they want a tame Christian education that does not teach critical thinking or any curriculum that isn’t a mythologised version of life that reinforces “tradition.”

Any curriculum that includes the hard facts about our settler colonial nations’ histories is anathema to the Right, as is acknowledgment of diversity. Any curriculum that includes recognition that people who are not straight exist is debauched. Any curriculum that includes the scientific facts of the unfolding climate emergency is, unsurprisingly given the money behind this campaign, disgracefully woke.

Schools that emerge beyond the campaigns will teach a curriculum that celebrates White Christian Patriarchal Civilisation. Christian charter schools, home schools and private schools will suffice. If children from disadvantaged areas miss out, the Republicans don’t care. Augmented by outlawing abortion, they will create a homegrown underclass to do the worst jobs for the worst wages without the need for migrant workforces.

America’s problems are not the same as our problems. These escalating campaigns that are right now stripping millions of Americans of equality and bodily autonomy are minority positions inflicted upon the majority after decades of strategising to break the flawed democratic processes underpinning the American republic.

In Australia, the Right faces different challenges to impose minority rule. It sees its best chance to regain power and reinstate the steps it had been taking to break our democracy in culture wars. These “moral” panics are distractions meant to disguise the fact that the Right can’t win on a platform of tax cuts for the rich and deregulation.

The new campaign to attack schools for being “woke” as signalled by Dutton, Sky News and the IPA’s Class Action campaign signal their intent to replicate the American crippling of schools and silencing of teachers. The IPA, like the American equivalents, is largely funded by fossil fuel figures who naturally do not want students taught to understand climate science. The harnessing of traditionalists scared of change, combined with radical Religious Right Christian Nationalist bodies, offers the LNP a new base that might offer electoral success.

Australian women and our allies have already marched on Australian streets to decry the Dobbs decision in the US Supreme Court. We must all be ready, particularly the straight majority, to stand up to any efforts to expand the attacks on our reproductive autonomy into the broader range of bodily autonomy.

Trans identity, weaponised by Morrison, is a wedge to expand into an extensive attack on LGBTQI Australians. Dutton has signalled his readiness to follow culture war politics as far as it will take him.

We must stand up alongside our targeted compatriots. We unite and defend, or we will all be trapped in the Right’s patriarchal nostalgia, and stripped of our equality.

 

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Australia needs a Bill of Rights

Australia is at a crossroads. The decade of Coalition government showed how vulnerable our rights and freedoms could be in the face of a political party radicalised by anti-democratic and illiberal ideas. The Republican Party in America is displaying how quickly rights can be destroyed, even after it was removed from government; we need to protect vulnerable groups within our nation from copycat attacks.

After the Albanese government fulfils its campaign promises to institute a collection of federal integrity measures, it should tackle drafting a Bill of Rights for Australia. The protections such legislation would afford are crucial.

The measures taken over the nine years of Coalition rule were such that Andrew Wilkie MP described the country as moving towards being a “pre-police state” in 2015 and “becoming a police state” in 2018. When courts objected to illegal steps by the Coalition, the government changed the law. We need to have stronger protections in place and even treaty obligations, before another government that shows such cynical disregard for Australian norms is elected into power.

There are a number of actions by the Liberal governments of the 21st century that must never be repeated. The indefinite administrative detention of refugees and the endless cruelties perpetrated upon them by Home Affairs and their contractors are a stain upon our reputation. We returned refugees to their persecutors, despite non-refoulment being at the heart of the Refugee Convention. Australia has sunk a long way since we stood as one of the original signatories in 1951.

The growing crisis of state capture over the last decade led to a government that was intent on keeping its secrets. The persecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery, his lawyer, are only two of the star chamber trials of whistleblowers in an egregious and secretive abrogation of citizens’ rights. The Coalition’s dedication to unpopular policy, echoed in state governments, has led to laws aiming to suppress peaceful protest. Without protest, democracy is crippled.

Scared of its voters, the government stepped up surveillance. The police need a warrant to inspect people’s electronic devices. Border Force, by contrast, has taken 40,000 electronic devices from people entering Australia over the last five years in a fishing exercise surrounded in secrecy.

The overturning of Roe v Wade last week in America pointed out that rights not encoded in laws are vulnerable. Now reproductive rights groups are preparing for cases where women who have miscarriages are arrested, their phone and internet history searched. Adversarial partners could be asked to testify to the criminality of the loss of a pregnancy, and the bounty system would reward them financially for the accusation.

Pregnancy tests in small towns are being put behind the counter to block privacy. Doctors are dangerously refusing to treat women miscarrying until they contract an infection, and pharmacists are refusing to issue the prescribed medication to hurry a miscarriage safely to its conclusion. Women’s bodies have ceased to be their own in Republican states, the very states where the maternal death rate is by far the worst in the industrialised world. Pregnancy is being criminalised.

The former Vice President has repeated the proposal that the abortion ban should be implemented nationally when the Republicans next take the other two arms of government.

This is not a decision supported by many Americans. Roughly 80% support abortion in some cases. Approximately 60-70% support abortion in the first trimester. The unpopularity of state bills allowing women or doctors to be charged with homicide for any intervention from the moment of conception does not prevent their passing. America’s democratic processes at all levels are compromised to enable this minority rule.

It is not just unwillingly pregnant people that stand to suffer. Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion outlined the fact that he saw all privacy protection precedents as “demonstrably erroneous” and that none could stand. Not only is marriage equality likely to be reduced to a state matter in America, but also the re-criminalisation of homosexuality. Some Republican figures have begun discussing banning contraceptive access in their state.

The Supreme Court’s attack on rights took place because three increasingly radical figures were named to the court under one President. It was not an armed coup that is depriving Americans of their freedom and equality but judicial appointments by a single elected leader. He functioned as the key to implementing decades of unscrupulous strategising by those using him.

There are two main cultural forces at work in America shaping these minority decisions being imposed on the public. One is the growth of the Religious Right, expressing extremist Christian positions on sexual morality that must be universally enforced to allow Christ to return. The other is a “social conservatism” deployed by Republican strategists and their media allies in “culture war” campaigns. The two overlap: the former depicts homosexuality as a grotesque sin, the latter depicts it as a grotesque and unmanly aberration.

Both forces are at work in the Right in Australia. Under the Morrison government, Australians saw the Religious Right come to the fore. The long Coalition procrastination on marriage equality made the debate bitter and harmful. After the passing of the marriage amendment, the backlash from religious conservatives was embraced by Morrison who worked to pass a parallel bill legalising religious discrimination.

Morrison accompanied this with attacks on trans youth and sportspeople, an echo of a key Republican strategy in America. The embrace of Katherine Deves, whose campaign was apparently run out of his office, illustrates the inclusiveness of the strategy. Right-wing feminists who have been encouraged to deploy white supremacist talking points are brought into the fold to broaden the appeal. In America, hundreds of laws have been implemented to limit both teachers’ ability to talk about the existence of LGBTQI+ people and the actions of trans people.

This Religious Right pressure on government hasn’t disappeared with Morrison. Extreme religious groups are stacking Liberal and National Party branches. In South Australia, the leader of the Liberal opposition David Speirs, three of his shadow ministry, and Labor MP Clare Scriven are attending an anti-choice training day on the same weekend as rallies against anti-choice legislation take place around the country.

The same (substantially fossil-fuel funded) culture war battles are being fought in Australia as in America. We have echoes of their Critical Race Theory battles in our “history wars.” Senator Hollie Hughes just reported to the Sydney Institute that “Marxist teachers” were to blame for the Morrison government’s defeat. This parrots lines in America where Republicans are trying to break the public school system in favour of religious education. Sky News both echoes and prompts the culture war battles that swirl in the internet sewers. The Religious Right has shown it is as unscrupulous as the socially conservative Right in the tools being used to reverse the achievements of the civil rights era.

Already, a Bill of Right’s protections is going to be difficult to define in Australia. Disinformation makes a fact-based discussion challenging. Anti-vaxxers would argue that the community’s need for mass vaccination to keep hospital systems functioning is a plot meant to poison them. Shaping a line for the protection of protest in regular times as opposed to pandemic eras is fraught. The Deves position and its “alternative facts” are being filtered out through women’s chats and gender-critical feminist journals disseminating illusory threats and breeding a demand for the persecution of a minority.

This debate will be complicated and require a delicate hand so that the provisions are clear enough to prevent excessive judicial license to interpret. They must be comprehensive enough to prevent a group from being harmed by its interests’ omission.

America is showing us that the combination of religious extremism and disinformation-based culture war radicalisation can create a dangerous voter bloc. A disengaged majority can be overwhelmed before it knows what hit it.

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The transphobia “moral” panic

People contributing to anti trans rhetoric are playing a much more dangerous game than they realise.

The current wave of anti-trans sentiment will lead to more violence and victimisation. Initially the attacks will hit people who are visibly trans women. Eventually, it will spread to anyone who is LGBTQI+. The same forces promoting this violence are those aiming to limit women’s rights, and ultimately purge their countries of unwelcome categories of people.

Be very sure you know what you are doing if you join in.

In America over one weekend in Pride Month alone, extremism monitors tracked “seven in-person extremist activities targeting LGBTQ people.” In the most dramatic event, 31 uniformed men in balaclavas were dragged from a U-Haul vehicle before they could create a “riot” at a Pride event in Idaho.

American political aspirants and preachers demanded death penalties for homosexuality in a year when 250 anti LGBTQI+ bills were introduced around that nation. In Ohio laws were passed that would allow the genital inspection of secondary and tertiary female student athletes. In Idaho, the law would make it a life-sentence felony for parents or doctors to help trans youth gain puberty delaying treatment, including making it a trafficking offence to take them out of the state in pursuit of medical care.

This hysteria feels much more extreme than in Australia, but as we saw on our streets over the pandemic, the violence of the turbulent world of American politics is brought here through internet swamps. Trump flags and nooses appeared in our street protests. Australians unknowingly appealed to American constitutional amendments for protection from health measures. Most Australians were shocked to see violent brawls with the police on our streets apparently emerging out of nowhere.

And in the global sewers of the internet, the reasons for the panic are clear. Of all the manifold bigotries that pervade the space, the one with the most convergence is that gay or trans people are pedophiles. That facts dismiss this as nonsense is no help; facts long since ceased having traction in this sphere.

This iteration of social contagion is not surprising. It is easier to absorb a “moral” panic when it confirms feelings of discomfort or incomprehension. Again, when it builds on earlier waves of “moral” panic, the new variant can confirm previous prejudice.

The “save our children” hysteria of the QAnon movement crescendoed in the worst of the pandemic. Lonely and frightened people sat at home on their computers absorbing a fantasy built on earlier waves of child stealing (and sacrificing) panics. Some of the people caught up in the QAnon cult would have been immersed in the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s where childcare operators were persecuted over baseless accusations of mass child abuse. QAnon proved they hadn’t been fools to believe.

The trans panic of this moment calls upon earlier fear and horror at the existence of Queer people in general. It was only in 1994 that mainland Australia legalised homosexuality, with Tasmania following three years later. The religious campaign against marriage equality during the postal vote in 2017 harnessed all the risks and threats that conservative Australians might dread.

The success of the equality vote brought change. Queer people in Australia described feeling accepted and finally welcome as part of the community. People felt newly safe to hold hands with their partner in the street.

These changes are recent and fragile. The Religious Right is fighting hard to limit equality, then ultimately to reverse it. This is most clearly apparent in the United States, but Australia saw Scott Morrison’s faction echoing its strategies. His religious discrimination bill aimed to grant religious groups the right to practise discrimination. In the election, Morrison’s decision to harness Katherine Deves’s feminist transphobia aimed to draw in a fresh base for his religious bigotry.

*And this feminist support for transphobia needs to be seen for what it is. “How the far right is turning feminists into fascists” traces the trajectory from some early radical feminist movements to the new anti-trans “feminism.” It is as likely to celebrate women for their child-bearing capacity as it is to echo ethnonationalist ideas. While feminisms are a broad range of beliefs, this kind seems grim.

The American Religious Right which Scott Morrison aimed to inject into Australian politics is infused with the theocratic belief in the absolute necessity for Evangelical/Pentecostal Christians to purify society. Christian Nationalism demands that all sexual activity in the state is procreative and within marriage. All men must be strong patriarchs. All women must be submissive wives. The Religious Right has not, however, placed itself at the centre of American “conservative” politics by being clumsy. It has deployed any strategy to achieve its aims, and encouraging women outside the churches to define their value in their reproductive capacity has been useful. It both works to aid the Religious Right’s war on women’s reproductive freedom as well as gaining allies against the LGBTQI+ people who would blur the boundaries.

They have convinced a sizeable proportion of America that progressives demand abortion up to the point of birth. The ludicrous parallel distortion is the depiction of trans women as a threat to other women. Both nightmare boogeymen prevent rational discussion of the issue, but rational discussion was never the goal.

The issue in America is driven from the top by well-funded Christian Libertarian thinktanks, and from the ground in the post-QAnon MAGA base. Republican politicians believe they have the key to minority rule in juggling these interest groups. In Australia, the nascent Religious Right is regrouping after Scott Morrison’s defeat. The secular version of their talking points is being amplified on Sky News, funnelled free-to-air into the regions.

When decent Australians allow themselves to be carried along by the wave of this moral panic, they are not defending women. What they are doing is becoming caught up on the rational-sounding fringes of a hysteria that will lead to violence.

The overlapping groups attacking LGBTQI+ people in America include Christian fascists and post QAnon conspiracy theorists alongside a range of other extremist factions. Anti-LGBTQI action has overtaken all the other “cross-pollination opportunities” like CRT, pandemic health measures and abortion access.

The violence in Australia is unlikely to look like militia in U-Hauls, but how many bashings or murders would be acceptable? The attack on trans people – or abortion – are not ends in themselves but trojan horse missions with the aim to replace our democratic projects with theocracy, and our freedoms to shape our lives with stringent rules of chaste behaviour.

We need to work together, just like the overlapping groups that despise us.

 

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Ten Questions for Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong

Yesterday, along with many others I watched the much anticipated marriage equality debate between Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong. I found some of the questions from the press gallery quite predictable. I felt the questions did not really challenge what marriage equality may mean for us as we progress as a nation. I have put together ten questions I would have liked to have asked Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong.

Question 1 – Twelve Year Olds
Many young people dream of their wedding. Even at twelve years old I dreamt of my wedding and would often gaze at a good looking boy in my class and wonder if it would be him. If marriage equality becomes the norm, how will the world change for all twelve year olds?

Question 2 – Is it time to really scrutinise marriage?
Marriage as currently defined, has no specific parameters of what that actually means, besides the union of a man and a woman. If a man and a woman are married, they can live a life as a sham. They do not need to sleep in the same bed or even live in the same home or even town. They do not have to share parenting, or be good parents or even be parents and there is always a contentious argument of if and when the housework is actually shared equally. Heterosexual married couples do not even have to treat each other with respect or endearment. They do not even have to be in love.

My question is, if we do not question the validity of what marriage means, outside of the bringing together of gender opposites, then why is the anti-marriage equality side constantly debating the morals, scruples and behaviour of the LGBTQI community who would like to be married? If this is such a strong area of concern, how do we redress the imbalance here if the anti-marriage equality advocates do succeed? Should we have more scrutiny of heterosexual married couples?

Question 3 – Gender Transformation
If an individual who is married decides to undertake the journey of gender transformation; what do the current laws mean for the married couple if they want to stay together, if both individuals identify and are legally recognised as the same gender? How will marriage equality have an impact on individuals who undertake the journey of gender transformation,and their spouse?

Question 4 – Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a very prominent issue in Australia at present. Domestic violence is often discussed in terms of between a man and a woman, rather than between two people. There is now a shift in reports and language surrounding intimate partner violence, which includes same sex relationships. How will marriage equality assist Governments to legislate for protections for all people in domestic violence situations and enable Governments to fund programs inclusive for all victims of domestic violence?

Question 5 – Atonement
Because it is 2015 and Australia still does not have marriage equality, there may be some LGBTQI people in our community who have felt they could not just ‘be who they are’ and may have chosen to live a life married in a heterosexual relationship for whatever reasons they decided this was best for them. If marriage equality is achieved, is it fair to say that there may be some resentment from those who feel they have been forced to make decisions they would not have had to? Is it fair to say that by not recognising marriage equality earlier, we have not allowed people to live a full life with freedom of individual expression and decision making and how do we as a nation atone for this?

Question 6 – A parent’s perspective
As a mother to a newly engaged daughter, my excitement is over-whelming awaiting the wedding. Weddings are something which do bring family and friends together for such a celebration of love and happiness. Weddings are seen as a key milestone for so many. I see myself as someone who is privileged to enjoy this excitement and my heart pains for mothers and fathers who do not have this privilege. From the perspective as a parent, how does a Government see their role in interfering in such a personal, individual celebration of love which is only afforded to mothers and fathers given this privilege? This question is particularly for Senator Bernardi, considering his Government favours small Government and is supposed to favour distancing themselves from interference in the private sphere.

Question 7 – Our social fabric
One of the biggest arguments for marriage equality is that it will end discrimination and enable equality for all. As per my last question, marriage is currently for those privileged to do so under our laws. If we do not allow same-sex couples to ‘be’ as heterosexual couples are allowed to just ‘be’ then our social fabric will always be woven from those in a position of privilege. How can our social fabric ever be complete when we are unconscious of a discourse that is currently silent about love, understanding and togetherness for all? How will marriage equality assist to weave our social fabric or in Senator Bernardi’s case destroy our social fabric?

Question 8 – Regional and Rural communities
I live in a regional community and I am aware that as I have aged over the years, many friends from my younger days have moved on to live in capital cities where communities are generally more supportive of LGBTQI Individuals, as regional and rural communities have not been very supportive in their experience. Some studies also cite very harsh treatment towards LGBTQI people who reside in regional and rural communities with some contemplating suicide or sadly, taking their own lives. What impact will marriage equality have on LGBTQI individuals living in rural and regional communities and what impact will marriage equality have in shaping these communities as a whole?

Question 9 – A Government’s responsibility to understand all groups in society
Although liberal feminism has achieved some great progress for women; liberal feminism was criticised by women of colour for excluding their lived experiences of discrimination and their need to redress areas of discrimination. This is because liberal feminists made assumptions from the perspective of middle class white women. Feminism has evolved to now women of colour having a much stronger voice and leading the issues in many areas of feminism. Including more experiences from a broader range of individuals can only result in better informed legislation. There are many areas of social policy and statistics collections where research assumptions are made on research and data collected from a heteronormative viewpoint. For example, there is little data to understand issues for single mothers who were previously in a same-sex relationship.

As it is the Government’s responsibility to develop social policies and legislate for same; isn’t it also the Government’s responsibility to ensure they have an understanding of all groups in society? How will marriage equality impact on the development of social policy and legislation of same? If Cory Bernardi believes these groups should be excluded by default by not having marriage equality legislation to redress this imbalance, does he support ill-informed legislation and policies?

Question 10 – Tolerance and conscience vote versus binding vote.
Anthony Albanese (Albo) on ABC Qanda on 1 June indicated in his response to a question about marriage equality and a conscience vote, is that we need to tolerate and respect the views of others to bring them along with us. We have many different pieces of legislation which already make discrimination unlawful. Therefore, the battle against discrimination and inequality has been won on many fronts with political parties or Governments coming together to legislate for change to enable equality.

My question is about a conscience vote versus a binding vote. I question whether a conscience vote is a necessary patience, or a subconscious accommodation for the class of people who understand discrimination well enough in other contexts; but not when it involves stamping out discrimination for something they fear. The same class of people who use religion, ignorance and/or prejudice as a shield to ward off progress. As a progressive, I do not feel I need to respect groups or individuals who actively fight against progress and who uphold discrimination.

So my question is: How do Governments or even political parties make the decision about what is characterised to be morally and ethically sufficient or insufficient to determine whether a binding vote or conscience vote will be used? Also, to truly progress, how tolerant should we be of all views?

Originally posted on Polyfeministix – take a poll about how you will vote here

 

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