LGBT+: It’s (still) a great time to be straight

Taiwanese courts last week opened the way for same-sex marriage in Taiwan. Of the well-functioning democracies in East Asia and Oceania, that leaves Australia in the company of socially conservative Japan and South Korea as the only ones who still haven't managed to respect their LGBT+ citizens' rights. Australia remains a nation of mostly gutless foot-dragging politicians who rarely manage to do more than follow by example.

Australian politicians have enthusiastically blocked progress towards granting equal rights to the 5-10% of the population who just happen to have the inclination to love people of the same sex. In 2005, federal parliament deliberately changed the definition of marriage to be heterosexual only, because rabid Christian voters were more important than the scores of LGBT+ people who suffer constant abuse, pressure, and prejudice.

During the 2000s, Australian consular staff were forbidden from issuing documentation that would assist Australians in marrying in other jurisdictions. (Many countries require a Certificate of No Impediment to prove you aren't married in the country of citizenship.) Heaven forbid that an LGBT+ Australian might actually be permitted to live and love at peace somewhere else, let alone come back to Australia with an LGBT+ husband or wife in tow. It was only in 2012 that this petty bureaucratic punishment was revoked.

We've now endured the insult of the proposed "plebiscite" about same-sex marriage, cos, y'know, equal rights should be determined by the will of the people (again, so much for leadership). Well, if it had been a binding plebiscite, then the likelihood was that - notwithstanding the torrent of hate speech that it would have unleashed - the will of the people might just have been on our side (after all, over 65% of Australians actually say they have no problem with same-sex marriage). But that's not leadership by politicians; it's ducking noble and responsible action. And then the plebiscite never happened, thank goodness.

But all the while, the vicious religiously-inclined Right felt emboldened to increase their campaign against people they have everything against but know nothing about. A program in schools to reduce bullying and improve understanding - Safe Schools - was damaged by various spurious concerns, including that it promoted gender fluidity. If you're heterosexual, that's what you are. No questions asked. If you're anything else, you're making a lifestyle choice, or have been corrupted by perverts, or just haven't found the right man/woman, or have been confused by the gay lobby. And all of that conveniently ignores that the heterosexual homophobes usually never have to justify, prove or excuse their sexuality. An easy life, isn't it.

Out from under the stones crawl more vile bigots. A tarnished tennis "great", Margaret Court, with an apparent obsession with lesbians and sodomy (separately), and a small history of racism, decided it was time to make public her distasteful views, as if she had some special right to be heard. For a long time, tennis had a reputation of being one of the more homophobic sports, so it was a joy to see a number of current players come out strongly against her. Her words have galvanised the Right into yelling more loudly, and claiming they are being bullied (they're never troubled by their brazen hypocrisy, rhetorical or religious).

The public disagreement from enlightened prominent people is welcome, and there have been comments that such open debate paves the way for progress and hope.

Tell that to the Australian teenagers who are wrestling with their identity and often facing relentless bullying, but are denied support because of the bigots on the Right.

Last week some men who had been deliberatedly targeted by vigilantes were publicly caned in Aceh. In recent weeks homosexuals in Chechnya have been arrested and tortured. Australia treats LGBT+ asylum seekers cruelly, both during their assessment, and by incarcerating them in Papua New Guinea where LGBT+ people risk imprisonment or death if they reveal their sexual identity.

Hope? Progress? I guess it depends on your frame of reference.

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