They’re still toiling away on this one over in the USA. The most widely publicised intervention on the subject was US General: Dutch Gays in Military to Blame for Massacre, unfortunately. What a dill!
As for the old friend: he didn’t actually disappear, though he has been several times away in the Persian Gulf in the past ten years. Rather, I don’t get around the gay traps all that much these days – a combination of choice and necessity. But I was chuffed to see Sailor Andy in the Herald the other day.
He has been in even more august company than that of the RSL president.
Can Gays Serve Openly in the Military? Yes, since 1992
And there’s more:
The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP, today welcomed changes to Commonwealth laws that mark a significant step forward in the recognition of same-sex relationships for Australian Defence Force (ADF) members.
“From 1 January 2009, the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws – Superannuation) Act 2008 will ensure that same-sex couples are treated the same as opposite-sex couples for the purposes of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948 and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973,” Mr Snowdon said.
“In addition, I have signed a legislative instrument to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and their children in regards to superannuation benefits paid under the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme.
“Same-sex partners of ADF members will no longer be denied the payment of death benefits from superannuation schemes,” Mr Snowdon said.
“The tax concessions on death benefits, currently made available to opposite-sex couples, will also be available to same-sex couples.
“These changes have been a long time coming, and further reinforce the ADF’s commitment to recognition of same-sex relationships, seen in areas such as the Defence Home Owners Scheme and access to Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Veterans’ Residences.”
So things have come a long way – some of it, be it noted, during the Howard years.
21 October 2005: Gay rights advocates have congratulated the Australian Defence Force (ADF) on extending equal partner and family benefits to service personnel in same-sex relationships. The extension of these benefits comes 13 years after the removal of the Australian Government’s ban on gays and lesbians serving in Australia’s military.
The Australian Defence Force is not backward in education on GLBT issues.
There is also a non-official Defence Gay & Lesbian Information Service website. Chief Petty Officer Stuart O’Brien is Chair of this group.
In 2007, after only six months back in Australia, he returned to the Middle East at short notice to take on the role of Chief Clerk within the International Zone at the Multi-National Force – Iraq headquarters, Baghdad. During his service here, he was awarded the US Meritorious Service Medal for his service within the Staff Judge Advocate’s Office.
Chief O’Brien is partnered to Christopher and lives in Sydney Australia.
See Out in Baghdad. See also Watch: Australian Navy’s Stuart O’Brien discusses lifting the gay ban in his country.
There’s a fascinating 2000 white paper called THE EFFECTS OF INCLUDING GAY AND LESBIAN SOLDIERS IN THE AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE FORCES: APPRAISING THE EVIDENCE. Our Sailor Andy figures in it.
The fact that these people were there had no effect whatsoever on the effectiveness of the units, unit cohesion or morale. People are accepted for who they are and, as long as they can do the job, who cares. That’s pretty much the view of most, I would say, in defence, here in Australia. As long as you are capable of doing your job, they don’t care what you’re doing in your spare time…
I’m quite open about my sexuality. Sometimes the boys decide to give me a bit of a ding-up with a joke or something like that, but that doesn’t bother me. We work really well together, and I’m sure it’s the same for other gay and lesbian soldiers and sailors who are out, and they’re accepted by their peers. O.K. — they’re the object of ridicule sometimes, but everybody is…
We’ve come so far on gay rights but it’s not enough
Former Australian Foreign Minister Bill Hayden recalls (6 October 2009):
Fifty-eight years ago, as a conscript in the Australian Navy, I was on parade with ship’s company on the wharf at Williamstown, I believe it was. A police identity check was taking place. Two rather hefty men, wearing dark fedoras, so favoured by celebrated criminals and successful detectives of the day, and bearing police standard issue suspicious scowls, moved between our ranks.
A third, slighter and very nervous, man was in tow. The offence being investigated was the bashing and robbery by sailors of a homosexual man in a park, the third person with the two detectives.
The exercise was abortive. It always was I was told. In such cases homosexuals really had no rights in practice, regardless of what the law might have said more generally.
Defence counsel would unmercifully shred their character in the witness box and with that would demolish any crushed remnant of self-respect to which the witness might attempt to cling.
The witness’s credibility as a complainant would be zilch by this time. Police, courts and the general public had little sympathy for homosexuals. No, it was an oppressive period which, by its prevailing bullying intolerance of non-conforming minorities about whom it was uneasy, made bashing and rolling gays for their wallets a reasonably safe and lucrative pastime.
Only the brave and foolhardy among victims would complain in such conditions. Nothing came of this incident I relate…
Where the issue of homosexuality has been concerned, so much outstanding human talent, even genius, has been wantonly sacrificed over so much time on the grotty altar of personal prejudice and community ignorance and petulance.
We have now had more than a couple of decades’ experience of living with legally sanctioned homosexual practices. The sky has not splintered apart, and our community has not degenerated into a Sodom and Gomorrah, as had been gloomily predicted earlier by fervid opponents of homosexual rights.
In fact, we have generally found gays to be good neighbours and friends, helpful and respected workmates, people whose presence is most frequently welcome as desirable fellow citizens…
The times are nowhere near as tolerant of and respectful towards those people as would be the case if the community accepted them as fully equal with us, the dominating majority, the heteros. We allow them a sort of provisional, limited citizenship; freedom on a short leash, as it were…
…That very conservative institution, the Roman Catholic Church, recently ruled that the much excoriated gay, Oscar Wilde, was a “lucid analyst of the modern world”. But do not hope for too much too soon. The wheels of progress grind exceedingly slow indeed in that institution.
On the other hand gay hate crimes, bashings and murders, still occur, reportedly as recently as last weekend, in Centennial Park.
Many of these issues have been discussed during the recent national Human Rights Consultation. My hope is that this soon to be released report recognises there is a lot more work to be done before we can feel confident that gay people are treated decently and with equality as our respected peer.
There was a very memorable Anzac Day we spent with Sailor Andy some years ago in an Oxford Street establishment. He brought all his mates. Every service was represented! I had some very interesting conversations.