Australia has an enviable record of fostering a diverse, open and welcoming society.
Together, we have built a place where people from every corner of the world can live and work side by side – a place where everyone can belong.
The YES Alliance is a group of Australians from faith and culturally diverse communities – that will be supporting a YES vote in the marriage equality postal survey.
Australians from migrant and faith backgrounds have often faced discrimination and
harassment based on race, skin colour, language, religious beliefs or cultural heritage.
LGBTI people are also in our communities, they are our friends and family members, and they can face discrimination on multiple fronts.
It’s never been more important for our communities to stand up for a more tolerant and
open society. A society that has equal rights for everyone. The postal survey will be an
opportunity to do that. That is why we must reaffirm our society’s shared values of –
freedom, fairness, equality before the law, respect for all and that discrimination is never acceptable – values that have shaped our success, and will underpin our future prosperity.
These are the values that unify us as a peaceful and prosperous society with a shared sense of belonging, respect, acceptance and contribution.
As the survey rolls out, we will engage with Australia’s multicultural and multifaith
communities and have difficult but important conversations about:
✓ why a YES vote is about equal rights
✓ why a YES vote is not a hindrance to religious freedoms or free speech
✓ why a YES vote will protect religious freedoms
✓ why a YES vote is about removing discrimination for all
We, the undersigned, pledge our support for marriage equality and to work with
multicultural and multifaith people to achieve a society where everyone is equal before the law.
Acceptance Melbourne LGBT Catholics
Arab Council Australia
Asian Australian Alliance
Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council Inc
Australasian Union of Jewish Students
Board of Directors of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria
Centre For Multicultural Youth
Chairperson of Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia
Chairperson of National Ethnic Disability Alliance
Christians for Marriage Equality
Democracy in Colour
Greek and Gay Support Network
Interfaith Centre of Melbourne
Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria
LGBTI Latin and Hispanics in Australia
Multicultural Friends of Labor
Muslims for Marriage Equality
Muslims for Progressive Values – Australia
One World Family
Settlement Services International
Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council
Welcome to Australia
LAST week in The AJN there was a full-page colour advertisement, authorised by Paul Monagle of the Australian Family Association. This advertisement is a scare tactic deliberately designed to stop people from voting yes to same-sex marriage by suggesting that doing so would somehow lead to children questioning their gender, as if that’s a bad thing.
There is no evidence that same-sex couples getting married leads to children questioning their gender identity. However that the Australian Family Association would promulgate such nonsense is unsurprising really.
It is alarming to see the advert in The AJN from a hate organisation like the AFA, one that seeks to destroy the lives of same-sex attracted, intersex, and gender-diverse people.
It’s also alarming that the advertisement makes the inaccurate claim that a London Jewish school was threatened with closure due to not teaching about “gender re-assignment and sexual orientation”. I had previously looked into these claims, made by Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby, and found them to be not only devoid of facts but outright misleading.
The primary reason why the Vishnitz Girls School failed three Ofsted tests was because they failed to provide a safe environment for their students:
In fact, the school had also failed to put in place the correct procedures for the safety of children. That is, there was no system in place for reporting neglect or abuse of the students. This is something that should be of great concern to all, and certainly an urgent need to be addressed as religious schools struggle with child sexual abuse.
This information is online and readily available for all to see in the Ofsted reports.
The school was not threatened with closure as a direct or indirect result of marriage equality in the UK and it certainly had nothing to do with transgender people getting married. In fact, the legislation in the UK makes many provisions for equality and religious exemptions.
In Australia, transgender people can currently and do get married under civil law as long as the birth certificate of one spouse indicates male and the other’s indicates female.
The Marriage Act currently excludes people who are in a same-sex relationship, along with those who do not identify as exclusively female or exclusively male.
This latter group includes some intersex people, gender neutral people, and gender-fluid people.
So really, this advertisement in The AJN, attempting to whip up hysteria and fear around transgender people, is wrong on every level. It is misleading, inaccurate and one that should be condemned by the entire Jewish community.
The advert finishes with the words “Don’t let the same thing happen here.” Don’t fall for this slippery slope nonsense. Jewish schools will not be closed down if same-sex couples are allowed to get married. What schools teach is quite independent of the Marriage Act, an act of Parliament that just regulates marriages, not school curricula.
What will happen if same-sex couples are allowed to get married is their children will have happier parents and a more stable home environment. Same-sex couples will be afforded the same protections under the law heterosexual couples currently have, currently denied to us. There are actually quite a few protections marriage offers that those in a domestic partnership (gay or otherwise) do not have. Also, the few cases of married couples where one partner has gone through gender transition will not need to get divorced for the birth certificate of the transgender spouse to be corrected. This current requirement for divorce is cruel and unnecessary.
Jews have known discrimination for millennia. We are a people who have endured the worst crimes against humanity and we know what pain and suffering is. We also say “never again”. We should add to that “and not to others”.
If ever there has been a time for a community to come together as one and show solidarity for all Australians, it is now. We must recognise that it is fundamentally wrong to deny people equality before the law, interfere in other people’s relationships, spread lies and misinformation, and deny people their dignity.
Vote Yes for equality.
Vote Yes for respect.
Vote Yes for dignity.
Vote Yes because it’s the right thing to do.
Michael Barnett is convenor of Jewish LGBTIQ support and advocacy group Aleph Melbourne.
Rabbi Shimon Cowen has apologised for a statement he made at last night’s JCCV forum on LGBTI inclusion …
“Last night I attended a meeting at Beth Weizmann hosted by the JCCV on the topic of assisting persons who may have been caused distress by the current Same Sex Marriage Debate.
“I am aware that a statement I made at the gathering is generating a lot of concern, and I want to apologize for any misunderstanding and offence it caused. The meeting discussed the issue of acceptance and inclusion of homosexual persons.
“I stated my understanding that we accept and care for all Jews – and indeed all people – because they are people, precious and made in the image of G-d. I went on to explain that one must be willing to exert oneself in this love and acceptance.
“Here I added extreme examples of misconduct, where the effort to love the person may be a difficult one. These examples included the case of a person who had stolen, or worse, a paedophile or a person who had committed incest. It was far from my intention to compare homosexual conduct to paedophilia or incest or anything else.
“Unfortunately, however, I was misunderstood to have compared them to homosexuality and this misunderstanding caused offence. I spoke after the meeting with the person who raised this grievance, explained to him and trust that I allayed any offence – which I certainly did not mean to cause – and that I was sorry that I was not more careful to avoid that misunderstanding.”
JCCV working to improve inclusion and reduce mental health tragedies for our LGBTI community members
Last night, about 40 community members, organizational leaders, mental health experts and service providers, including at least seven Orthodox Rabbis, attended a very informative and moving Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) LGBTI Mental Health Forum.
The Forum heard from speakers and panelists from SANE Australia, Headspace, Jewish Care Victoria, Keshet Australia, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and Hatzolah. Community members and professionals also shared relevant anecdotes and personal stories.
JCCV President, Jennifer Huppert stated, “It is most important at this time while the community is enduring a divisive and emotionally damaging same sex marriage debate, that we focus on respect, inclusion and avoiding creative havoc with the mental health of vulnerable members of our community, in particular our LGBTI youth.”
Apart from sharing the terrible statistics for mental health problems and suicide rates for the LGBTI community, and especially our youth, speakers described many of the problems faced:
Lack of support
Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia
Isolation and alienation
Loss of family and community connections
Which all can lead to self-harm, depression, and worse.
Young LGBTI youth face a FIVE times higher risk of suicide compared to non-LGBTI youth.
Rabbi Daniel Rabin, President of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria spoke about inclusion and the need for Rabbis and other community leaders to be welcoming.
Rabbi Rabin stated, “We are all members of the community, like letters in a Torah scroll. If one is missing, the whole is invalidated.”
“As one of my LGBTI congregants with young children said to me, ‘What make me comfortable to attend the Synagogue and its activities is because I don’t feel judged when I participate”
Speakers spoke about the importance of family and community support, and issues of coming out.
Medical practitioner and mental health advocate Dr Dov Degen stated, “I hope for a future where we won’t have to come out as gay or straight. We will just be able to say, “I am me”, and that will be enough.”
Orthodox Psychologist Zipporah Oliver OAM aligned the discussion with Orthodox Jewish values and said that we should remember to focus on:
– Saving a life and minimizing harm
– Loving a fellow Jew
– Chessed – Kindness
The panel of speakers highlighted steps that families and community leaders needed to take to improve mental health outcomes and prevent serious damage, included:
– Be welcoming:
– Accept difference
– Support the vulnerable and those struggling
– Refer to appropriate service providers
– Don’t be judgemental
– Provide an inclusive environment
– Must name and address mental health problems
– Must have the conversations
– Must be careful in your language and display understanding and empathy.
Opponents of marriage equality often say that married and de facto couples already have the same rights. To what extent is this true? And, in legal terms, how much do the differences matter?
In an opinion piece last week, former prime minister Tony Abbott claimed:
Already, indeed, same-sex couples in a settled domestic relationship have exactly the same rights as people who are married.
This isn’t true.
At the most fundamental level, same-sex couples do not have the right to marry and therefore do not have “marriage equality”. While de facto couples may be able to assert some of the same rights as married couples, they often have to expend significant time, money and unnecessary heartache to do so.
Marriage allows people to access a complete package of rights simply by showing their marriage certificate or ticking a box, and is based on their mutual promises to one another rather than proving their relationship meets particular interdependency criteria.
Unlike de facto relationships, marriage is recognised nationally and internationally.
Differences under law
The laws regarding de facto couples differ between states and the Commonwealth, and from one right to another.
For Centrelink purposes, you are a de facto couple from the moment you start living together; for migration law it is after 12 months of cohabiting (unless you have a child together or de facto relationships are illegal in your country of origin).
Under family law it is different again: a minimum of two years (unless you have a child together, have registered your relationship, or have made significant contributions to the relationship).
Where married couples use IVF, both spouses are automatically legal parents. But for de facto couples using reproductive technologies, their child’s parentage depends on whether a de facto relationship is proven to exist.
Couples who are or were married must file for property and/or spousal maintenance proceedings in the Family Court within one year of finalising a divorce, but have the option to agree to an extension of time in which to file. No such provision exists for de facto couples; they must file proceedings within two years.
In many states, a new marriage nullifies an existing will, unless that will was quite specifically worded. This is not the case when you enter a new de facto relationship. In the latter situation, if you die before making a new will, a court might need to decide how your assets are allocated (with costs borne by your estate).
In all contexts, de facto relationships require significant proof, which means partners may have to provide evidence about their living and child care arrangements, sexual relationship, finances, ownership of property, commitment to a shared life and how they present as a couple in public. These criteria can be absent from a heterosexual marriage, but it is still deemed a marriage.
Despite the wording in the marriage ceremony that marriage “is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”, it is up to married partners whether or not they share their finances, their housework, their childcare responsibilities, their homes or their beds, and how long they want to stay married.
‘Registered relationships’ – separate but equal?
Many states and territories have legislation permitting couples to register their domestic relationships – the exceptions are the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
To register, you first need to prove that you meet the criteria – for example, providing “personal or financial commitment and support of a domestic nature for the material benefit of the other”. Where marriage delivers rights based on a couple’s promises to one another, registered relationships still require proof that a relationship meeting the criteria already exists.
Such registered relationships are not reliably recognised overseas.
When does it matter?
While married and de facto relationships largely have equal standing before the law, only marriage is immediate and incontrovertible.
Difficulties for de facto couples arise from the complex inter-relationship between the “burden of proof”, institutionalised homophobia, and the sticky situations that can often arise in interpersonal or family conflict.
For example, a person in a de facto relationship might need to prove their relationship:
if their partner is very ill, in order to make decisions about their care and treatment (this can be prevented by having another piece of paper – a medical enduring power of attorney equivalent document depending on your state or territory);
if their partner who has died, in order to be listed as their spouse on a death certificate or to be involved in funeral planning (being listed on a death certificate is critically important when it comes to claiming superannuation payouts and myriad other issues); or
if their partner has died without leaving a will.
Sadly, the times when marital status matters most are likely to be times of grief, or high stress. To compound this, there are many examples of a couple’s “de facto” status being challenged by one partner’s family of origin. Marriage, on the other hand, is undeniable.
Unmarried de facto couples often experience difficulties attaining residency and/or working rights overseas. Married couples rarely experience these problems.
Same obligations, without the same right to wed
Same-sex couples have all the same obligations as married couples – to pay taxes, child support and so on. But they don’t have the ability to marry – to enjoy the symbolic and emotional effects of entering into a legal union with their partners before friends and family, or enjoy the legal security of having one document to confirm the legal status of their relationship.
Many heterosexual couples in Australia choose to live in de facto relationships. This is their right. Same-sex couples do not get to choose – they have no alternative.
Marriage equality is about giving couples genuine choice about how they structure their relationships.
This meeting of the Plenum of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
STRONGLY ASSERTS that Rabbis must continue to be able to conduct marriage ceremonies in accordance with Jewish Law as they see fit
REJECTS any attempt to impose a belief or value system on the Rabbinate or observant Jews or prescribe to them requirements that are in conflict with Jewish Law
OBJECTS to any attempt to silence or stifle legitimate and fair minded debate on the issue of marriage equality regardless of the position taken.
REAFFIRMS its commitment to freedom of religious practice and religious education in Australia.
ACKNOWLEDGES that that as a matter of Orthodox Jewish law (halacha), same sex marriage is not permitted
The question before Australia at the upcoming postal plebiscite is one relating to civil, not religious, marriage.
Australian law and society has long allowed for same sex relationships between consenting adults.
Many Jewish people are already in marriages that are recognised as such under Australian law yet are not recognised in Jewish Law.
Current laws prohibit persons, other than religious organisations, from discriminating on the basis of homosexuality or gender.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies represents the whole Jewish Community in NSW, including those who are LGBTI and their families, friends and loved ones.
Many couples in our community who are in committed, loving relationships are unable to have their relationship recognised by the state as a marriage in the same way that committed, loving relationships between heterosexual couples may legally be recognised.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is committed to fighting all forms of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, homosexuality, gender and disability and to supporting all members of our community as they strive for equality under the law.
To call on the Federal Government to ensure protections for practice of religious freedom and religious education;
To support the elimination of discrimination against same sex couples under Australia’s civil law by extending legal recognition to marriages between same sex couples who choose to marry; and
To support equal treatment under Australian law to same sex couples who choose to marry.
THE NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) has overwhelmingly passed a motion calling for “equal treatment under Australian law to same-sex couples who choose to marry” at its monthly plenum tonight (Tuesday).
The motion, which only one person voted against in a room filled with more than 100 people, stated that the roof body of NSW Jewry “strongly asserts that rabbis must continue to be able to conduct marriage ceremonies in accordance with Jewish law as they see fit”, “rejects any attempts to impose a belief or value system on the rabbinate”, “reaffirms its commitment to freedom of religious practice and religious education in Australia”, “acknowledges that as a matter of Orthodox Jewish law, same-sex marriage is not permitted” but then noted that “the question before Australia at the upcoming postal plebiscite is one relating to civil, not religious, marriage”.
The motion also noted that the JBOD is “committed to fighting all forms of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, homosexuality, gender and disability” and that it will support “all members of our community as they strive for equality under the law”.
And finally, it resolved, “To call on the Federal Government to ensure protections for practice of religious freedom and religious education; to support the elimination of discrimination against same-sex couples under Australia’s civil law by extending legal recognition to marriages between same-sex couples who choose to marry; and to support equal treatment under Australian law to same-sex couples who choose to marry.”
Former JBOD president Justice Stephen Rothman said that he was proud to speak to the motion at the plenum tonight.
“Some members of our community consider same-sex relationships and morally repugnant, and that is dealt with in the motion,” Rothman said.
“We don’t have to approve same-sex relations, in order to approve same-sex marriage.
“In my view, in the case of members of the same-sex community they should be free to enjoy their commitment to each other in the same way that other can.”
Rothman also noted that although same-sex marriage is not legal in Israel, the Jewish homeland does recognise same-sex marriages that take place in America or other countries were same-sex marriage is legal.
“If it’s good enough for the Jewish state, it’s good enough for Australia.”
Jack Pinczewski, who stepped down from the JBOD executive last month, spoke in support of the motion.
“We owe it to our friends and families to take a stance on this matter,” he said.
“It’s a matter of fairness, and a matter of separation between church and state.”
The motion was drafted by JBOD president Jeremy Spinak, however his wife is in hospital expecting twins so he was not in attendance.
In a written message, Spinak said the JBOD was obliged to act in what it considered the best interests of the community, which was to support marriage equality.
“This is about vital members of our community being recognised,” Spinak wrote.
“They have every night to be recognised as married.
“It’s about standing for gay families, so that even if they would not be accepted halachically, they would be accepted in the community in which they live.”
However, he reiterated that he respected rabbis and members of the community who took a different view and had a right to be heard, without being labelled as homophobic or derided for their opinions.
Only one person spoke against the motion at the meeting. He claimed that people who are gay are “not equal”.
JEWISH AUSTRALIANS SAY YES TO EQUALITY
SEPTEMBER 20 2017
Right now in Australia, there is a battle going on for the dignity and rights of people that happen to not be heterosexual. The entire country is being asked to vote on the rights of one section of the community. As Jews, we know too well the dangers of singling out one group of people, and refusing them the rights that are shared by all. As Jews, we know too well the cost of silence in the face of discrimination and injustice. We will not stand by in silence as part of our community is stereotyped, vilified, judged, treated differently. We are all diminished when we discriminate against and demean the love between people based on their sexuality. We are all strengthened when we support and uphold the rights of people to be treated equally.
We are proud to add our names to the growing list of supporters who recognise the right to love freely, and the right to be treated equally under the law. We stand in support of same sex marriage in Australia. Our community is diverse, and we owe it to all our members to know that they do not stand alone.
In a truly progressive and inclusive society, the rights of all people are respected equally. Currently in Australia the right to marry is denied to LGBTQI couples. As Jewish Australians, we believe that there should be no law that discriminates against one section of our community. We embrace diversity in our community and in society.
A no vote in this postal survey has no place in a pluralistic and secular country such as ours and would simply entrench discrimination against LGBTQI people. We cannot say we believe in equality, but only in certain circumstances. Therefore, we urge people to vote for fairness, respect and diversity.