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Australia’s History of LGBTI Politics and Rights  

Noah Riseman

In the past 50 years, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) activism in Australia has grown from small, localized organizations to national campaigns calling on all Australians to affirm LGBTI people’s equality. While the issues and activist strategies have evolved over the past 50 years, there have been two persistent patterns: most organizations and activism have been state based and have drawn on international influences, especially from the United Kingdom and United States. In the 1970s the organizations CAMP (Campaign Against Moral Persecution) and Gay Liberation presented competing visions of LGBTI equality, but both recognized the importance of visibility in order to change societal attitudes and influence law reform. Campaigns to decriminalize male homosexuality began in the 1970s and continued across the states through the 1980s and even into the 1990s in Tasmania. After law reform, activists shifted their advocacy to other areas including anti-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, and eventually marriage equality. HIV/AIDS was another important cause that generated grassroots activism within LGBTI communities. State AIDS councils worked in partnership with the federal government, and Australia had one of the world’s best public health responses to the epidemic. Pop culture, international media, and visibility at events such as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras gradually shifted public opinions in favor of LGB equality by the 2000s. Transgender and intersex rights and acceptance were slower to enter the public agenda, but by the 2010s, those two groups had attained a level of visibility and were breaking down preconceived stereotypes and challenging prejudice. Indeed, politicians lagged behind public opinion on marriage equality, delaying and obfuscating the issue as the major political parties grappled with internal divisions. In 2017 the Commonwealth government held a postal survey asking Australian voters whether or not they supported same-sex marriage. This was an unprecedented exercise in Australian polity that was divisive, but LGBTI activists succeeded in their campaign and secured an overwhelming victory. The postal survey’s outcome also set the stage for new political fights around LGBTI people’s rights: so-called religious freedom, transgender birth certificates and support for LGBTI young people.

Article

Legal and Policy Battles Over Same-Sex Relationships  

Erez Aloni

Since the 1980s, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) social movements worldwide have put significant energy into securing relationship rights. In the 1970s, however, the general sentiment in such movements in the Occident had been anti-marriage and anti-nuclear family. This changed in the 1980s due to three factors: the impact of HIV/AIDS, which emphasized how vulnerable same-sex families are; the rise of families headed by same-sex parents who did not have the same protections as their different-sex counterparts; and globalization, which transferred the ideas about same-sex relationships among movements and created energy and useful policy connections. During the 1990s, a wave of marriage alternatives spread around the world, sometimes extended by legislatures and other times by courts. The rise of alternatives has raised these questions: are they a temporary compromise on the path to marriage equality; are they a replacement for marriage that is free of its historical discriminatory heritage; or are they proposing an additional legal institution alongside marriage? In the 2000s and since, marriage equality became realistic and more common as two dozen countries gradually extended marriage rights to same-sex couples, initially in Europe and North America, but later also in Australasia, in the entire Americas, and even—in fewer countries—in Asia and Africa. Incrementalism is the generally accepted theory for why progress occurs in some countries and delays in others. However, scholars have criticized the theory as descriptively inaccurate and, normatively, as portraying marriage as the final frontier for LGBTQ equality—thus contributing to that community’s emphasis on marriage equality to the neglect of other possible advocacy avenues. Further, the incrementalistic account should take into consideration that the path toward recognition is not linear and is international as well as national. Supranational courts have played an important role in the progress toward recognizing same-sex relationships; at the same time, the globalization of LGBTQ relationship rights has also resulted in a strong backlash and in regression in some countries.