Queensland Pride February 2010 cover and link to their website

 

Queensland Pride magazine (an Evolution Publishing monthly publication)

Issue #QP269 February 2010

cover story (click here to view this story on the Queensland Pride website):

 

(Please note this correction: the mentioned opinion poll was conducted by “Galaxy” not “Gallup”)

 

State of inequality

Written by John Frame   

 

Published online Wednesday, 27 January 2010 10:19

 

photo used by Queensland Pride to accompany this article online

Equality continues to elude Queensland’s young gay men, who are treated differently by the law to their heterosexual peers, writes John Frame.

November 2010 is considered by some in Queensland’s LGBT community as an occasion for celebration as the 20th anniversary of ‘homosexual law reform’, which was worded as the ‘decriminalisation’ (as distinct from the legalisation) of sex between men. Sex between women who were over the age of consent had not been illegal anyway, but the passing of this Bill helped to remove the social stigma which severely affected all homosexuals and bisexuals.

However, it was a severely flawed piece of legislation because it failed to include equality for youth.

Unlike vaginal intercourse, which is legal from age sixteen, anal intercourse under the age of eighteen carries a penalty of up to fourteen years jail and ‘consent’ is not accepted by the courts as a defence. Anal intercourse is common enough with heterosexuals – it’s even a topic for mild humour in the 2001 film Bridget Jones’s Diary. However it is Queensland’s same-sex attracted male youth who remain particularly at risk because the law defines them, by their presumed sexual activity, as being potential criminals.

A young gay man in the Brisbane Central electorate of Labor MP Grace Grace recently wrote to her recounting his personal experience.

“I wouldn’t call myself a political activist in the area of gay rights. However I find one issue that has directly affected me to be particularly disheartening,” he said. “A few years ago when I was eighteen, I was considered a criminal because I was having anal sex with my seventeen-year-old partner. We went on with that relationship for three-and-a-half years before recently separating. I would be interested in hearing your opinion as to whether you believe it to be an equitable law when my straight male friends at that time were not considered criminals.”

Queensland public opinion on support for an equal age of consent at sixteen was gauged in September 2009 by an as yet unpublished Gallup Poll. The most significant finding is that 66 per cent of young people agree with reform.

So before we get into celebrating 20 years of equity for adults, we should be making it a priority to achieve true equity for youth. As adults, we are privileged to be empowered to organise effectively to demand and fight for equal rights. Youth are not empowered to similarly organise – and equity should not be their struggle. Adults have a moral duty of care which obliges us to be proactive on youth welfare, and youth ought to expect equal treatment as their birthright.

Numerous local public rallies have been devoted to adult LGBT issues, and a similar event highlighting the need for equal age of consent reform is long overdue.

Openly-gay serving USA war veteran Lt Dan Choi was a key speaker at the 11th October National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, and he stressed: “In the face of discrimination, patience is not a plan! Silence is not a strategy!” Here in Queensland, we have been too patient and too quiet on seeking reform of the discriminatory age of consent law.

Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth wrote to the Premier and Attorney-General in July 2005 advising that the situation in Queensland mirrors what forced equal age of consent reform in Tasmania.

“In 1994 in the case of Toonen V Australia, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Riqhts prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” she stated. “The older age limit for lawful sodomy in section 208 of the Criminal Code therefore constitutes a discriminatory provision which breaches Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Other states and territories have, since the decision in Toonen, repealed similar discriminatory and homophobic laws.”

On November 26, Queensland Premier Bligh closed the last sitting day of Parliament for the year by claiming, “We lead the nation on integrity.” The lie in that claim is proven by her government’s steadfast refusal to bring Queensland into line with every other Australian state and territory by enacting a truly equal age of consent.

This stance is in stark conflict with Queensland Labor’s own Policy Platform which is, “Labor will ensure uniformity of age among laws relating to the age of consent for lawful sexual activity” (Section 7.9 of the Justice and Governance Chapter).

The Liberal National Party has repeatedly stated that they will not support age of consent reform, and they are increasingly likely to form the next government. Labor must grab this fading chance to prove their integrity by putting their clear majority to good moral use and enacting equity for Queensland youth with an equal age of consent at sixteen. Then we will all have reason for genuine celebration in November 2010.

John Frame is a Brisbane-based broadcaster and human rights activist.

FURTHER READING

www.queerradio.org/AgeOfConsent.htm

www.queerradio.org/AOC_what_the_law_means.htm