Media Release: Surrogacy matters to our rainbow families

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs tabled a report from their inquiry into the regulatory and legislative aspects of international and domestic surrogacy arrangements on 4 May. The report, titled ‘Surrogacy Matters’, outlines ten recommendations arising from the inquiry.

The NSWGLRL contribution to the inquiry recognised the diverse range of views within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, intersex and queer (‘LGBTIQ’) communities on issues surrounding surrogacy and the appropriate regulatory or legislative scheme.

Co-convenor Lauren Foy said “the GLRL submission presented several ‘key principles’ that we think are critical to the regulatory and legislative aspects of international and domestic surrogacy. These guiding principles elucidate the need for an empirically-based, human rights-aligned and workable response to regulating surrogacy in Australia which prioritises the best interests of children, but also protects the rights of surrogate mothers and intended parents.”

“Reform of the regulation and legislation of surrogacy in Australia needs to progress in line with lesbian and gay rights as well as the expectations of the broader community.”

“We also noted that surrogacy in Australia was marred by an inadequacy of information. Many community members are unsure of their rights and responsibilities when considering a surrogacy arrangement. We suggested that in order to ensure the efficacy of any reform, it would be useful to provide accessible community education for people considering or pursuing surrogacy arrangements (including same-sex couples)” informs Co-convenor Chris Pycroft.

The report acknowledged that many inquiry participants, including the GLRL, “highlighted a number of discriminatory provisions that exist in relation to gender, marital status and sexual orientation.”

The report recommended that Australian governments consider the development of a model national law that facilitates altruistic surrogacy, and that the Australian Law Reform Commission conduct an inquiry into the varied laws in jurisdictions in order to develop the model law. The GLRL welcomes this move towards national consistency.

The report also recommended that the Australian Government develop a website that provides advice and information for Australians considering domestic altruistic surrogacy. This addresses the GLRL’s comments on the inadequacy of information around surrogacy.

However, the report recommended that commercial surrogacy remain illegal in Australia and that a taskforce be developed to report on ways to address the situation of Australians who enter offshore surrogacy arrangements, including an audit of surrogacy destination countries.

The Committee recommended that the Australian Government introduce legislation to amend the Migration Act 1958 such that Australian residents seeking a passport for a young child to return to Australia are subject to screening by Department of Immigration and Border Protection officials to determine whether they have breached Australian or international surrogacy laws while outside Australia, and that, where the Department is satisfied that breaches have occurred, the Minister for Immigration is given the authority to make determinations in the best interests of the child, including in relation to the custody of the child.

This follows recognition, endorsed by the GLRL, that the “evidence is clear that extra-territorial offences for engaging in commercial surrogacy have not worked to deter Australians from travelling overseas to use surrogacy services”. The report found that, without a consistent national ban, credibly enforced, “Australians will continue to use offshore commercial surrogacy services”

“Whilst this conclusion is inescapable, we are concerned about the effects of the recommendations to address it on many members of our communities.” says Foy

Some inquiry participants, including the Australian Christian Lobby, argued that all forms of surrogacy should be prohibited altogether.

Further media comment is available upon request.

#RainbowVotes the most important in recent history

The 2016 Federal Election to be held on Saturday 2 July is one of the most important in recent memory for LGBTI communities.

In the lead up to the Federal election NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW GLRL) is calling on all parties to make a commitment to end discrimination and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians.

NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said “For the health, wellbeing and safety of our communities, it’s paramount that we ensure LGBTI issues are among the top of the agenda this federal election and we make our #rainbowvotes count”.

NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft said that politicians needed to recognise the importance of equality to a large number of Australians. “Now is the chance for us to show federal politicians the increasing number of voters that include equality for LGBTI people in deciding how they vote”, Pycroft said.

As a part of the #RainbowVotes campaign involving 9 organisations including the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, an election questionnaire covering 11 key topics has been sent to major parties, micro parties and key independents. Areas of focus include LGBTI youth, discrimination, ageing, foreign affairs, gender diversity and intersectionality. Responses will be published and distributed widely to voters ahead of the July 2 election.

The NSW GLRL said one of the key election asks will be taking action to reduce violence and harassment against LGBTI students and ensuring that young LGBTI people feel safe at school.

“We’ve seen the attacks on Safe Schools clearly having an impact. NSW LGBTI people ranked mental health and safe schooling as issues of high importance to them in our survey. We are calling for all parties to take steps to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia occurring in schools.”

Foy also said another key ask of the parties will be to increase engagement with the LGBTI community through a Commissioner with specific responsibility for LGBTI rights, a party spokesperson on issues relating to the LGBTI equality, and a whole-of-government LGBTI Ministerial Advisory Group.

“In the current political climate, there is a demonstrable need for a Commissioner with specific responsibility for LGBTI rights.

“We’ve seen the success that LGBTI Friends of Parliament cross party working group can have in the reform process in NSW. We also see the success in Victoria, of the Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality who is making strong inroads in helping Government and private organisations to be more inclusive and understanding of the needs of LGBTI people. We believe this is a model the federal parties should consider adopting.”

Pycroft also said that anti-discrimination and vilification laws were also a high priority for NSW LGBTI people.

“It is concerning that despite advances in policing and anti-discrimination protections, LGBTI people in our communities and survey still consider discrimination, harassment and hate speech to be an issue of high importance. We have no federal vilification protections against hate speech and this is a grave concern.

“With many exemptions still in place, this election is an opportunity for political leaders to demonstrate their commitment to equality before the law.”

On health, families and young people, the NSW GLRL said research shows that LGBTI people can have poorer mental health outcomes.

Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said “We’ve seen an increase in people reaching out for mental health support as the conversation on a plebiscite continues, Safe Schools continues to be attacked and LGBTI refugees continue to be persecuted. We need to make sure that there are safety nets in place to ensure that appropriate care, support and access is afforded to all people. We want to see radical hospitality afforded to all members of our community.”

The NSW GLRL will also continue their calls for marriage equality. Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft said “Changes to the Marriage Act in 2004 meant increased discrimination and prejudice against our community; it was a statement which said that our love is not equal. We will continue to fight for a free vote in parliament, and for the passage of marriage equality. 70 per cent of LGBTI Australians do not support a national vote on marriage equality. It is unnecessary, costly and potentially harmful to young or vulnerable LGBTI people and their families.”

With the electoral rolls to close on May 23, the NSW GLRL is urging LGBTI communities and ally’s to make sure they #enrolforequality, in particular those who are eligible to vote for the first time.

“By enrolling now and making sure those around you are also enrolled, you can help us show the Government that Australians everywhere believe in fairness and equality for LGBTI people – and will ‘rainbow vote’ for it,” Foy said.

Community members can enrol online at http://www.aec.gov.au/enrol

The full questionnaire (and impending results) can be found at http://www.glrl.org.au/rainbowvotes

LGBTI lobby groups announce election agenda

As the election is called, the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) and New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW GLRL) have outlined the issues that they are focussing on this election campaign.

The two lobby groups are working with other community organisations on a joint campaign on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights in the lead up to the federal election.

“For the health, wellbeing and safety of our communities, It’s paramount that we ensure LGBTI issues are among the top of the agenda this federal election,” said NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Lauren Foy.

“Now is the chance for us to show federal politicians the increasing number of voters that include equality for LGBTI people in deciding how they vote,” said NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft.

The VGLRL conducted a community survey during this year’s Midsumma Carnival, which will influence the lobbying efforts in the lead up to the election.

Youth

One of the lobby groups’ key election asks will be taking action to reduce high of violence and harassment against LGBTI students and ensuring that young LGBTI people feel safe at school.

“The attacks on Safe Schools are clearly having an impact. LGBTI Victorians ranked mental health and safe schooling as issues of high importance to them in our community survey. We will calling for all parties to take steps to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia occurring in schools,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor Rachael Hambleton.

“The mental health and wellbeing of LGBTI young people should not be a political football,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor Sean Mulcahy.

Engagement

Another key ask of the parties will be to increase engagement with the LGBTI community through a Commissioner with specific responsibility for LGBTI rights, a party spokesperson on issues relating to the LGBTI equality, and a whole-of-government LGBTI Ministerial Advisory Group.

“In the current political climate, there is a demonstrable need for a Commissioner with specific responsibility for LGBTI rights. Here in Victoria, the Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality is making strong inroads in helping Government and private organisations to be more inclusive and understanding of the needs of LGBTI people. We believe this is a model the federal parties should consider adopting,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor Sean Mulcahy.

Equality and non-discrimination

“It is concerning that despite advances in policing and anti-discrimination protections, LGBTI Victorians in our community survey still consider discrimination, harassment and hate speech to be an issue of high importance,” said VGLRL Co-ConvenorRachael Hambleton.

The lobby groups are calling on parties to remove certain exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, including provisions affecting trans and intersex sportspeople.

“Discrimination and vilification has been identified by LGBTI people as an issue of concern in New South Wales, with many exemptions still in place. This election is an opportunity for political leaders to demonstrate their commitment to equality before the law,” said NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft.

Health and ageing

Research shows that LGBTI people can have poor mental health outcomes. The lobby groups are calling for action to address the mental health of LGBTI people, including the provision of ongoing funding for the national LGBTI telephone support helpline, Q-Life.

“A national, co-ordinated approach is needed to address the heath needs of LGBTI Australians, particularly the needs of older LGBTI people,” said NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Lauren Foy.

Relationship recognition and marriage equality

The lobby groups continue to call on the parties to reject a public vote on marriage equality and address this matter through a vote of the Parliament.

“70% of LGBTI Australians do not support a national vote on marriage equality. It is unnecessary, costly and potentially harmful to young or vulnerable LGBTIQ people and their families,” said NSW GLRL Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft.

#EnrolForEquality

With the electoral rolls to close soon, the lobby groups are urging the LGBTI community to Enrol for Equality. 

“With an early federal election looking increasingly likely, it’s important that all LGBTI people – especially those who have or are about to turn 18 – enrol to vote,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor Sean Mulcahy.

“By enrolling now and making sure those around you are enrolled too, you can help us show the Government that Australians everywhere believe in fairness and equality for LGBTI people – and will vote for it,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor Rachael Hambleton.

Community members can enrol online at aec.gov.au/enrol. Further information is available here.

LGBTI lobby groups join forces in enrol to vote campaign

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With Parliament to resume today, the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) and New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW GLRL) have joined forces to call on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community to Enrol for Equality.

“With an early federal election looking increasingly likely, it’s important that all LGBTI people – especially those who have or are about to turn 18 – enrol to vote,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor, Sean Mulcahy.

“By enrolling now and making sure those around you are enrolled too, you can help us show the Government that Australians everywhere believe in fairness and equality for LGBTI people – and will vote for it,” said VGLRL Co-Convenor, Rachael Hambleton.

The two lobby groups are working with other community organisations on a joint campaign on LGBTI rights in the lead up to the federal election.

“For the health, wellbeing and safety of our communities, It’s paramount that we ensure LGBTI issues are among the top of the agenda this federal election,” said NSW GLRL Co-Convenor, Lauren Foy.

“Now is the chance for us to show federal politicians the increasing number of voters that include equality for LGBTI people in deciding how they vote. The more people enrolled to vote, the louder the voice we have,” said NSW GLRL Co-Convenor, Chris Pycroft.

Community members can enrol online at aec.gov.au/enrol.

Facebook event: Enrol for Equality
#enrolforequality

Statement from GLRL Co-Convenors: Homophobia fails to dampen Rainbow Run, shines brighter than ever

Today was always destined to be a smashing success for the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL). More than 500 people took part in Rainbow Run at Sydney Park in St Peters today, an event aimed at bringing our communities together, along with raising funds and awareness for marriage equality. To our disappointment, there were a select few who weren’t shy in trying to disrupt our event.

During the course of today’s event, the following occurred:

  • The graffiti of Sydney Park with homophobic messages
  • Damage and vandalism of organisation collateral
  • Theft of private property
  • Suspected tampering of audio equipment used during the event
  • Homophobic verbal abuse directed at two event volunteers

We want to take this opportunity to make it perfectly clear – the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby will not tolerate homophobia, discrimination or vilification under any circumstances. We will not stand for it, and we will act accordingly whenever and if ever it happens.

The attempts to disrupt or dampen this event were unsuccessful. Rainbow Run continued, and it was our most successful year yet. We’re proud of what this event has achieved, and that it is able to be a part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival. Attempts to disrupt our events and/or any campaigning for full equality for lesbians, gay men and their families will only increase our resilience.

With recent events in the political landscape, including heated debate around the Safe Schools Coalition, this serves as a reminder to us that support services for our LGBTI communities have never been more important. No person should ever feel that they’re alone, or that there is nowhere they can turn to for help. It’s something that we will never accept.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Lara Creber and Healthy Habit Fitness for their facilitation of their event. We would also like to acknowledge Alex Greenwich MP for officially opening proceedings, James ‘Breko’ Brechney for MC’ing today’s event, DJ Sveta for keeping the music pumping, and every volunteer who contributed. We couldn’t have done it without you.

We as an organisation are dedicated to playing a key role in working towards social and legislative equality for our LGBTI communities. We’re committed to making sure that all schools, workplaces, homes, sporting fields and public spaces are safe spaces for all. We also hope that communicating this experience contributes to making sure that our communities are protected not only during the Mardi Gras festival, but at all times.

Further comment is available upon request.

Media Release: NSW GLRL welcomes apology to the 78ers

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby are encouraged by the multi-partisan support from the NSW Parliamentary LGBTI working group, who have come together to actualise the long term effects of ill treatment and abuse endured by our trailblazers, the 78ers, and offer to them an apology.

Following the Rainbow Votes state election forum in February 2015, Steve Warren, one of the original Mardi Gras revellers from 1978, and current Coordinator and Co-Chair of the 78ers group, asked the panel whether they would support an apology to the LGBTI people who were arrested, assaulted and publicly outed. The cross-party panel, including representatives from all major political parties and key independent members of parliament, unanimously supported an apology to the LGBTI community for police activity at the first Mardi Gras in 1978.

We welcome the leadership shown by the NSW Parliamentary LGBTI Working Group chaired by Bruce Notley-Smith (Liberal), Trevor Khan (Nationals), Penny Sharpe (Labor), Jenny Leong (Greens) and Alex Greenwich (Independent).

It is with the strength and bravery of those people who, on June 24, 1978, had the courage and conviction to stand up and challenge the ongoing moral and physical persecution of gays and lesbians bound by unjust law and social attitudes.

Female Co-Convenor Lauren Foy welcomed the apology and said “We hope that this apology serves as a concrete stepping stone in which our communities will see past actions of Governments, legislators, the police and those involved in exposing so many of our community that night to violence and brutality, to account.”

Male Co-Convenor Chris Pycroft echoed the sentiments and added “We will continue to work with Government on addressing and redressing law reforms that continue to impinge on the everyday rights and exclusions that LGBTI communities still face. We know that there is still work to be done.”

We, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, are inspired by the 78ers, their perseverance and activism spanning almost four decades. For without you, our voices now might not be so free. 

Further comment is available upon request.

Come join us for Rainbow Run in 2016!

RainbowRun

It’s become a key event on the Mardi Gras calendar, and it’s back again for 2016!

Join us on Saturday February 27 when we take over Sydney Park for a great day out and help us raise funds for our campaigns this year. We’ve got performers, DJs, the works.

It’s a big year for the GLRL this year, with the continued momentum for marriage equality as well as this year being an election year (to name just two!)

Bring your friends. Bring your family. Bring your team mates. It’s going to be a great event and not worth missing.

Tickets are just $45 for an individual or $150 ($30 each) for a group of 5.

Buy your tickets now!

See you there!

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