Two reasons why the ECAJ must vocalise its support for marriage equality

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry calls for “equal empowerment”, “social egalitarianism” and “a belief in the equality of humankind” yet to date has not vocalised it’s position on marriage equality. I present two reasons why doing so will be to its advantage.

On December 3 2011 the Australian Labor Party voted in favour of supporting marriage equality.  This was promptly followed by a statement of support from the Union for Progressive Judaism and simultaneously a statement of opposition from the Orthodox-based Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia.  J-Wire then reported a message from Jewish Community supporting Marriage Equality (J4ME) along with a statement from the ECAJ:

Peter Wertheim, the executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told J-Wire that his organisation had no policy in place relating to same sex marriage.

The ECAJ recently passed a motion that calls for “mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the [Jewish] community” and also acknowledges “that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community”.  This motion appears on the ECAJ Platform.

Peter Wertheim has recently been promoting via email the fact that Israel is the most GLBT-friendly place in the Middle East and that it is the only safe place for GLBT people to live openly and out in the Middle East.  Indeed, the Israeli situation for GLBT people is mostly good.  In some cases Israel is actually more advanced than Australia in affording GLBT people human rights.  One such case is that Israel recognises foreign marriages of same-sex couples whereas Australia has chosen to legislate against such recognition.

I wish to make two points regarding the recent support from the ECAJ for GLBT people and the promotion of Israel as a relatively safe GLBT space.

Firstly, the human rights and equality that GLBT people in Israel have been afforded have come about through changes to civil law and have for the most part been independent of (Orthodox) Jewish law or “halacha”.  If halacha was the law of the land in Israel, GLBT people would have no equality or recognition in any form.  This is evidenced by the aforementioned ORA statement and the general attitude of Jewish Orthodoxy to homosexuality.  This religious intolerance of homosexuality is not dissimilar to that which exists in the Islamic states that surround Israel.

It is the secular and progressive attitudes toward equality and human rights that has made Israel the beacon of tolerance and acceptance of GLBT people in the Middle East that it is.  With ongoing work in this area, such as that around surrogacy and parenting (here and here), Israel will become an increasingly proud oasis of acceptance for GLBT people and will no doubt be further promoted as such by Zionist advocates.

Secondly, with the ECAJ calling for respect of GLBT people in the community and the acknowledgement that there is “unlawful discrimination” against GLBT people, such as in the case of the Australian Federal Marriage Act, I find it hard to understand that the ECAJ chooses to remain silent on marriage equality.

In fact, this silence betrays the ECAJ’s platform on Social Inclusion, where it states:

1. Social Inclusion
This Council:
1.1 NOTES that it is the vision of the ECAJ to create and support a community in which all Australians, including all Jewish Australians:
(a) feel valued and their cultural differences are respected;
(b) have a fair opportunity to meet their material and other needs; and
(c) are equally empowered as citizens to participate in and contribute to all facets of life in the wider community;
1.2 NOTES that as Australians we take great pride in what we see as the uniquely Australian values of social egalitarianism, “mateship” and a “fair go”;
1.3 REAFFIRMS our profound commitment on behalf of the Australian Jewish community to the dignity of difference, gender equality, and a belief in the equality of humankind;

Here the ECAJ is calling for “equal empowerment”, “social egalitarianism” and “a belief in the equality of humankind”.  To my understanding, marriage equality fits all of these three concepts.  To clarify, egalitarianism is defined as “affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people.”

I believe the ECAJ does want marriage equality to be legislated, but has not yet taken the time to think about the implications of not vocalising its support for it.  The ECAJ is an organisation that has a genuine concern for the human rights of all people in every nation on this planet.  Further, it is inherent in the Jewish psyche to understand what deprivation of human rights can lead to.

I sincerely urge the ECAJ to consider its stance on marriage equality in general and speak out in favour of removing the legislated discrimination that all GLBT Australians face when it comes to recognition of our relationships.  It is without a doubt in the ECAJ’s best interests to advocate marriage equality, as doing so will have the double reward of making Australia a better place for all its citizens, and simultaneously making the beacon of light in Israel, the country that it is so proud of, shine even brighter.

Once upon a time, in 1984 …

Just like a fairy-tale, once upon a time (in 1984) Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said she’d fight for homosexual rights.  But with the power of the big job going to her head, she decided equality for gays was a bad, bad thing, and changed her tune.  Perhaps she’d even forgotten about the old days, the idealistic, head-rushing days of her student youth.  Will there be a happily ever after in this fairy tale?

1984 Julia Gillard's student election commitment to support homosexual rights
1984 Julia Gillard's student election commitment to support homosexual rights

What can gays do in New York that they can’t do in Australia?

Gays can now get married in New York, but still not Australia. Seven years down and we’re still buried under the the most hateful piece of legislation ever passed in this country.

Seven years after the Howard Liberal government introduced the delightfully discriminating Marriage Amendment Act (2004), we’re still rallying for marriage equality.

Tracy Bartram was guest of honour:

Tracy Bartram - fag-hagging it for marriage equality
Tracy Bartram - fag-hagging it for marriage equality

Federal Member of Parliament (The Greens) for Melbourne, Adam Bandt is a strong advocate for Marriage Equality.  He had a few words to say about Marriage Equality (including how the Liberal Party has been noticeably absent at these rallies – Shame Liberal Party Shame):

Adam Bandt - Federal MP for Melbourne (The Greens) - marriage equality legend!
Adam Bandt - Federal MP for Melbourne (The Greens) - marriage equality legend!

There were even drag queens and a hot dancing boy (because sequins and lip-sync are necessary to help legislate away the hate):

Polly Filla, Simon and Bumpa Love
Polly Filla, Simon and Bumpa Love

I seem to be a recurring feature at these rallies, and so does my partner Gregory.  We’re not married, but we are in a registered relationship in the state of Victoria.  We’ve been in a relationship since November 2008.  Why can’t we get married Julia?

My partner Gregory and me
My partner Gregory and me

Oh yeah, and in case you didn’t know, same-sex couples can now get married in New York (but not Australia!):

Same-sex marriage is now legal in New York
Same-sex marriage is now legal in New York

Back in March I took some pics, and last Saturday, August 13 2011, I took some more.  Enjoy the excitement of the day – photos on Picasa and Facebook.

Fascist Dictator Julia Gillard stops gay Aussies marrying in New York

Australian Fascist Dictator Julia Gillard denies Australian’s the right to get married overseas by refusing to issue a Certificate of Non-Impediment.

From: Alex Greenwich (AME)
Date: 8 July 2011 12:45
Subject: MEDIA RELEASE: GILLARD STOPS GAY AUSSIES MARRYING IN NEW YORK
To: Michael Barnett

AUSTRALIAN MARRIAGE EQUALITY

Media Release
Friday July 8th 2011

GILLARD STOPS GAY AUSSIES FROM MARRYING IN NEW YORK

The Gillard Government is blocking the marriages of gay Australians in New York.

When New York state’s new equal marriage law takes effect on July 27th same-sex couples from other countries will be able to marry there if they provide a Certificate of Non-Impediment to Marriage (CNI) to show they are not already married in their home country.

But the Australian Government refuses to give such certificates to same-sex couples intending to marry overseas, a policy defended by Julia Gillard as recently as the 14th of June, 2011.

Australian Marriage Equality National Convener, Alex Greenwich, called the policy petty and mean-spirited.

“The Gillard Government’s policy of not allowing same-sex marriages in Australia forces same-sex couples to go overseas if they want to marry, but when they apply to marry in another country Julia Gillard is there saying “no” as well”, Mr Greenwich said.

“This means some couples miss out on entitlements and protections they can only receive overseas if they are married in a country that would otherwise recognise their committment, and it causes endless hassles for couples who have planned their wedding only to find it can’t go ahead.”

In response to a question from Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie on June 14th Julia Gillard incorrectly stated that CNIs are issued to show if a marriage is recognised in Australia (details here), but the New York Marriage Registry clearly defines a CNI in the following way:

“A Certificate of Non-Impediment is an official Certification that the City Clerk’s Office has no information that would be an “impediment” to your getting a Marriage License in the City of New York.”

In 2009, a tri-partisan Senate inquiry condemned the policy of not issuing CNIs to same-sex couples and called for it be scrapped on the following basis:

“A decision by a sovereign nation to allow marriage between a couple of the same sex should be a matter for that nation, and not a matter against which Australia should throw up bureaucratic barriers.”

On Wednesday, openly-gay South Australian Labor State Upper House member, Ian Hunter, condemned the Gillard Government’s refusal to issue CNIs and revealed he and his partner have officially applied for a CNI to marry overseas. (Details here).

Yesterday in an interview with Sky News, Julia Gillard said she may not respect a motion at December’s National Labor Conference in favour of allowing same-sex marriages. (Details here)

For more information contact Alex Greenwich on 0421 316 335.

Orthodox rabbis champion homosexual acceptance and same-sex marriage

[SOURCE]

Our friends over at AJN Watch have published a delightfully accepting and heart-warming piece about homosexuality and marriage equality.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Please thank them for their care and concern.

PS.  If the link above is broken, try this backup PDF version.

Australian rabbis endorse marriage equality

The members of the Rabbinic Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia, Asia and New Zealand declare their support for marriage equality under Australian law.

Nearly four years after the 2007 statement from the Union of Progressive Judaism where they overturned their ban on same-sex commitment ceremonies, the UPJ have now endorsed full marriage equality under Australian law, as per the following media release from Australian Marriage Equality.

Media Statement
Wednesday May 25th 2011

RABBIS GIVE STRONG SUPPORT TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

Australia’s Progressive Rabbis have endorsed marriage equality.

Australian Marriage Equality National Convener, Alex Greenwich, and former AMA head, Prof. Kerryn Phelps, have welcomed the statement saying it highlights support for allowing same-sex marriages among people of faith.

“We welcome the Rabbis’ strong statement in support of marriage equality because it highlights that people of faith can and do support full legal equality for all Australians”, Mr Greenwich said.

“To often this issue is wrongly portrayed as ‘God v gays’ when it is really about the equality and dignity of all people.”

“The statement is important, not only because it is made by religious leaders, but because it is based on religious values such as the recognition of human dignity and because it recalls the deep discrimination Jewish people have endured.”

The statement was also welcomed by former AMA head, Prof Kerryn Phelps, who was married in a Jewish ceremony in the US to her wife Jackie Stricker-Phelps.

“I am very pleased leaders of my faith have now formally declared support for my marriage and call on the Australian Government to do the same”, Professor Phelps said.

“Rabbis have been performing same-sex marriage ceremonies for some years now, and it’s important these marriages have the same legal recognition as other marriages.”

“The recognition and respect that my faith provides our relationship gives us great strength .”

The full statement from the Union of Progressive Judaism is attached.

For more information contact Alex Greenwich on 0421 316 335.

New Israel Fund comes to Australia

New Israel Fund is coming to Australia and I have a feeling this new player in the Australian Jewish scene is going to usher in a breath of fresh air. They have strong credentials in GLBT rights which is particulary promising.

[SOURCE 1] [SOURCE 2] [SOURCE 3]

NIF is coming to Australia and I have a feeling this new player in the Australian Jewish scene is going to usher in a breath of fresh air.

From a GLBT perspective this is very exciting, simply by looking at their list of Civil and Human Rights Grantees:

Al-Qaws – for Sexual and Gender Diversity in the Palestinian Society

Promotes the development and rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community within Palestinian society.

and

Assiwat (through Kayan)

Provides a safe and anonymous space for gay Palestinian women; pursues recognition for their sexual and gender identity and promotes their rights through personal empowerment, raising awareness and public education.

Further, their Shatil program advocates for issues such as Freedom of Choice in Marriage (video) and to give voice to Orthodox lesbian women in Israel.

NIF Australia are on Facebook.  That seems to be the best place to connect with them currently.  Also check out We Are NIF.

I sincerely hope they engage with the local GLBT community, both Jewish and wider, and build some strong bridges.

Rabbi Dovid Freilich shows his ignorance of marriage in Australia

Rabbi Dovid Freilich believes marriage is about having children. In Australia having children is not a requirement of married couples and anyone who believes otherwise clearly has a mistaken understanding of marriage.

The following appears on page 6 of the April 22, 2011 Melbourne edition of the Australian Jewish News:

Majority for gay marriage

GARETH NARUNSKY

IN Wentworth, the Sydney electorate with the highest number of Jewish voters, more than 72 per cent of people support same-sex marriage.

That figure comes from a survey conducted by shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull after the House of Representatives called on MPs to gauge voter opinion on extending the definition of marriage.

Jewish gay, lesbian bisexual, transgender and intersex group Dayenu has welcomed the results, but the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) said it remained opposed.

Out of 2333 Wentworth residents who responded to the survey, 72.7 per cent said they were in favour of gay marriage.  Wentworth takes in the suburbs where a majority of Sydney’s Jews live.

Dayenu president Roy Freeman said the survey’s results were “amazing”.

“It would be great to see a Liberal MP of his standing taking a particular stand on this particular topic,” he said.

ORA president Rabbi Dovid Freilich said his organisation opposed any legislation to legitimise same-sex marriage.  “This is not intended to show any discrimination against the gay community, but simply to uphold the sanctity and purpose of marriage, which is the union of man and woman in not only expressing their love for one another, but in also bringing future generations into this world,” he said.

Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins of Sydney’s progressive Emmanuel Synagogue said “new times called for new readings”.

“Both the Progressive and Masorti movements have gone on record to endorse the rights of same-sex couples to have their exclusive committed relationships recognised and honoured by tradition,” he said.

Michael Danby, the MP in Melbourne Ports, which has the highest number of Jewish voters in Melbourne, has invited submissions rather than running a survey.

Today I submitted the following Letter to the Editor:

Thank you for your article on gay marriage.  The overwhelming evidence shows a clear change in thought on how modern Australians believe in equality for all citizens.

However, it is evident that Rabbi Freilich does not fully understand about marriage in Australia when he talks about a purpose for marriage, because the federal Marriage Act does not stipulate that a married couple must bring future generations into this world.

Despite this, numerous same-sex couples successfully raise happy, healthy children, even in the Jewish community.  If Rabbi Freilich would like to see these children raised with the full support of the Jewish community he should be campaigning for the removal of the legislation preventing marriage equality.  His actions will only harm those in same-sex relationships and their children.  Is this what the rabbi wants?

I suspect the good rabbi is more interested in blindly following harmful and outdated religious dogma than the welfare of the people in the Jewish community, but I remain open to correction.

A letter to Anna Burke about Marriage Equality

I wrote a letter to Anna Burke, federal member for Chisholm, telling her why I believe marriage equality is important to my partner Gregory and me.

Get Up told me Anna Burke, my local member in the federal seat of Chisholm, wanted to hear from me.

From: GetUp <info@getup.org.au>
Date: 3 April 2011 10:36
Subject: Ms Anna Burke wants to hear from you
To: Michael Barnett

Dear Michael

Your MP, Ms Anna Burke, is conducting a survey in your electorate, Chisholm, to determine community support for marriage equality. Can you participate? Click here to share your views with Ms Anna Burke.

Last spring GetUp members sent over 10,000 emails in support of a Parliamentary motion that encouraged Members of Parliament to gauge their constituents’ views on marriage equality. Now, many MPs, including yours – Ms Anna Burke – have started consulting their electorates.

Under current laws, same-sex couples cannot get married and are denied the same rights and recognition other married couples enjoy. But now, as MPs consult their electorates, you have a unique chance to help form their opinion and inform their vote. Click here to have your say.

Thanks for making your voice heard,

The GetUp Team

I wrote this email in response:

From: Michael Barnett
Date: 3 April 2011 18:07
Subject: My views on marriage equality
To: Anna Burke <anna.burke.mp@aph.gov.au>
Cc: Gregory Storer

Dear Ms Burke,

My partner Gregory Storer and I have been in a committed relationship since November 2008.  We love each other deeply and would like the right to be able to marry each other.

There is no justifiable reason for preventing us from getting married.  We are identical in every way to any heterosexual couple, except that one of us is not female.

Some people will claim that we can’t conceive a child between us and other people will say that any children we raise will suffer from not having a parent of either gender.

My response is that there are plenty of heterosexual people who cannot or choose not to have children.  There are also plenty of single mothers and fathers who ably raise their own children.

As it happens, my partner Gregory Storer has two teenage children that he raised single-handedly and so he is not looking to have any more children.  I am not looking to have any children either.

We would like the right to get married though, as we currently feel we are treated as second-class citizens by our government and we believe we are entitled to the same rights and privileges as all other Australians.

We pay the same taxes as all other Australians and we contribute to society the same as all other Australians.  Yet we are treated differently to all heterosexual Australians simply because one of us is not female.  Do you think that is fair to discriminate against us because one of us is not female?

I encourage to you to understand that it is harmful to the mental health and self-esteem of all people who are treated less than anyone else simply because of their gender or their sexual orientation.  You would understand that, being female.

If you have any doubts or questions about what I am saying, I would encourage you to listen to this presentation by Rodney Croome, delivered at the Wheeler Centre in 2010.  It’s worth every minute of time it takes to watch.

http://wheelercentre.com/videos/video/rodney-croome-the-case-for-gay-marriage/

Sincerely,
Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, VIC
0417-595-541