I am amazed at the massive influence that the Christian-Right continues to have within the Liberal National Party of Queensland. It was always self-evident that the party is inherently socially conservative, even with a leader who can generously be described as a “moderate.” This is a legitimate worldview—not one with which I agree, but one that is held by the LNP. But the speed and apparent enthusiasm with which the LNP has gone after LGBTI rights since winning Government in March has been completely shocking. I didn’t expect Qld to be the progressive place that it was under the former government; but this level of anti-gay sentiment to early is a troubling sign, and not one that many saw coming.
It began when the Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg, defunded the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities based on, at best, faulty logic. His view was that they spent too much time advocating; apparently not realising that they were contractually obliged to do so under the terms of their contract with the Qld Government He also cited the AIDS rate in Qld as evidence that the QAHC was not working effectively. Nonsense. The HIV rate among gay men—the sector of the community that the QAHC actually serves, actually decreased. The QAHC was working. His actions demonstrate a loathing for the same-sex community within the LNP that has not been seen since Joh referred to homosexuals as “sick animals.” It appears as though many within the Government continue to hold that worldview.
The Premier then announced that his Government would eliminate the official ceremony aspect of the civil partnerships legislation passed by the former government. This was met with wide outrage from many, but I was not one of them. It was a weak and petty move, but all things considered, the alternative was infinitely worse – they were always going to alter them in some way or form. But what actually transpired was much worse, and their “reforms” go much further. Among a whole host of other reforms, “civil unions” will now be called the “relationships registry.” The Attorney-General will go so far as to rename the Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages; which administers the Act, so that there can be no doubt that the registry is not marriage. This move can only be fuelled by an anti-gay worldview. Incidentally, the Premier acknowledged that the only organisation to whom he spoke on this matter was the Australian Christian Lobby, who also met with the Attorney-General. The Premier simply said that he “knows the views” of groups like PFLAG. If he really does, they clearly don’t get any say in public policy.
We have always known that there are severe anti-gay sentiments within the Liberal National Party. Fiona Simpson, now the Speaker, is on the record as believing in “ex-gay therapy,” going so far as to put their number on the public record for persons who might be interest. I can only hope that nobody was. Mark Robinson, now the Deputy Speaker, promised before he was elected that the LNP would repeal civil unions. Others have expressed similar views, and it is typical of the former Qld Nationals Party, which is still the dominant influence on the LNP despite the merger, to hold views that could be characterised as homophobic. But that was supposed to change.
There was much hope that Campbell Newman, the first metropolitan Liberal leader the conservatives have had as leader in years, would moderate those views. “But he supports gay marriage!” cried many on the Right, hoping to diminish the Right’s reputation in Qld as extreme. I doubted this but did not have much evidence, as it was true that Campbell Newman did once say that he supports same-sex marriage. But the evidence is now in. Campbell Newman is clearly completely unable or unwilling to moderate the extreme elements of his own party to the detriment of minority groups within Qld. I fear that the worst is yet to come.