Skip to comments.Rights lobby kicks off election campaign -Age of consent lowering and much more (Sydney)
Posted on 12/20/2002 1:04:33 AM PST by chance33_98
Rights lobby kicks off election campaign
By Stacy Farrah
The States political parties will be quizzed about their commitment to gay and lesbian rights in the lead-up to next years NSW state election.
The election may still be months away, but the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is already investigating which candidates will support four key areas of reform.
Co-convenor Somali Ghosh said the Lobby would pressure parties to secure commitments to an equal age of consent for everyone, recognition of gay and lesbian parents and changes to the way the Anti-Discrimination Act allows churches and private schools to sack gay and lesbian teachers.
The Lobby also planned to ask politicians to commit to fixing the remaining pieces of NSW legislation overlooked in a round of reforms made earlier this year.
A questionnaire would be sent to political parties asking for their thoughts on the four matters.
Ghosh said the results of the questionnaire would be compiled and sent to gay and lesbian community organisations across the state in early February.
Theyll go everywhere, she said.
This is not just a Bligh election, not just a Labor election. Its important that the major parties realise that gay and lesbian rights are an issue for a lot of voters in our community.
The bottom line is this NSW has now fallen a long way behind other states in terms of gay and lesbian law reform. We want to see a commitment from all parties to achieving equality and social justice for gay men and lesbians.
Fellow Lobby co-convenor Andrew Pickles said it was time politicians moved forward and changed the unequal age of consent for young gay men.
Age of consent has been an on-going issue for our community for some time now. Weve had in-principle support from both the premier and the leader of the opposition but now its time for something more, he said.
Wed like to see a firm commitment including a timeframe for legislative change that would see an equal age of consent.
The state election will be held on Saturday 22 March.
Homosexuality was legalised in 1967, marking the start of 35 years of change that saw the age of consent for gay men cut from 21 to 16 and the first official "marriage-style'' ceremonies for same-sex couples.
Gay couples now enjoy the same rights to adopt as married couples and today Home Office minister Barbara Roche signalled that they would also be offered equal legal status in "civil partnerships''.
But these changes were only possible after thousands of campaigners made their case to Parliament and the public, taking on vociferous opposition from Catholics, Anglicans and the House of Lords.
The law which set the age of consent at 21 remained unchanged until 1994, when the Commons was given a free vote on the matter. MPs agreed to lower the age of consent for gay men to 18 - but that was not enough for many activists and politicians who continued to press for the younger limit of 16.
The ensuing tussle proved one of the most difficult Parliamentary challenges for the Government during the early years of Tony Blair's premiership.
Three times the Commons voted overwhelmingly in favour of lowering the age of consent to 16. And three times the House of Lords, led by Tory Baroness Young, rejected the plans.
It was only in February 2000, two years after the plan was first put to the Commons, that Speaker Michael Martin invoked the rarely used Parliament Acts to force the measure through.
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