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The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG

January 31, 2009 Leave a comment

In honour of The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG who retires today, I thought I’d republish the opening ceremony speech he gave at the GAY GAMES VI in Sydney on 2 November 2002.  It is truly inspiring.

OPENING CEREMONY SYDNEY
SATURDAY 2 NOVEMBER 2002
COURAGE

The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG

Under different stars, at the beginning of a new millennium, in an old land and a young nation, we join together in the hope and conviction that the future will be kinder and more just than the past.

At a time when there is so much fear and danger, anger and destruction, this event represents an alternative vision struggling for the soul of humanity. Acceptance. Diversity. Inclusiveness.
Participation. Tolerance and joy. Ours is the world of love, questing to find the common links that bind all people. We are here because, whatever our sexuality, we believe that the days of exclusion are
numbered. In our world, everyone can find their place, where their human rights and human dignity will be upheld.

This is a great night for Australia because we are a nation in the process of reinventing ourselves. We began our modern history by denying the existence of our indigenous peoples and their rights. We their place was in the kitchen. And as for gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities, they were an abomination. Lock them up. Throw away the key.

We have not corrected all these wrongs. But we are surely on the road to enlightenment. There will be no U-turns.

Little did my partner Johan and I think, thirty years ago, as we danced the night away at the Purple Onion, less than a mile from this place, that we would be at the opening of a Gay Games with the Queen’s Representative and all of you to bear witness to such a social revolution. Never did we think we would be dancing together in a football stadium. And with the Governor. And that the Governor would be a woman! True, we rubbed shoulders on the dance floor with Knights of the Realm, such as Sir Robert Helpmann and with a future Premier, such as Don Dunstan. But if an angel had tapped us on our youthful shoulders and told us of tonight we would have said “Impossible”. Well, nothing is impossible to the human spirit. Scientific truth always ultimately prevails. So here we are tonight, men and women, indigenous and newcomers, black and white, Australians and visitors, religious and

It is put best by Corey Czok, an Australian basketballer in these Games:

“It’s good to be able to throw out the stereotypes – we’re not all sissies, we don’t all look the same and we’re not all pretty!”

His last comment may be disputed. Real beauty lies in the fact that we are united not in the negatives of hate and exclusion, so common today, but in the positives of love and inclusion.

The changes over thirty years would not have happened if it had not been for people of courage who rejected the common ignorance about sexuality. Who taught that variations are a normal and universal are no big deal. And that, between consenting adults, we all just have to get used to it and get on with life.

The people of courage certainly include Oscar Wilde. His suffering, his interpretation of it and the ordeal of many others have bought the changes for us. I would include Alfred Kinsey. In the midst of the McCarthyist era in the United States he, and those who followed him, dared to investigate the real facts about human sexual diversity. In Australia, I would also include, as heroes, politicians of every
major party, most of them heterosexual. Over thirty years, they have dismantled many of the unequal laws. But the first of them was Don Dunstan. He proved, once again, the astonishing fact that good things sometimes occur when the dancing stops.

I would also add Rodney Croome and Nick Toonen. They took Australia to the United Nations to get rid of the last criminal laws against gay men in Tasmania. Now the decision in their case stands for the whole world. I would include Neal Blewett who led Australia’s first battles against AIDS. Robyn Archer, Kerryn Phelps, Ian Roberts and many, many others.

But this is not just an Australian story. In every land a previously frightened and oppressed minority is awakening from a long sleep to assert its human dignity. We should honour those who looked into themselves and spoke the truth. Now they are legion. It is the truth that makes us free.

§ I think of Tom Waddell, the inspired founder of the Gay Games. His last words in this life were: “This should be interesting”. Look around. What an under-statement.

§ I think of Greg Louganis, twice Olympic gold medallist, who came out as gay and HIV positive and said that it was the Gay Games that emboldened him to tell it as it was.

§ I think of Mark Bingham, a rowdy Rugby player. He would have been with us tonight. But he lost his life in one of the planes downed on 11 September 2001, struggling to save the lives of others. He was a real hero.

§ Je pense à Bertrand Delanoé, le maire ouvertement gay de Paris, poignardé à l’Hôtel de Ville au course de la Nuit Blanche. Il a fait preuve d’un très grand courage – et il est un homme exceptionnel. When the gay Mayor of Paris was stabbed by a homophobe he commanded the party, at which it happened, to “Dance Till Dawn”. Do that in his honour tonight. And in honour of the Cairo 52; the Sister movement in Namibia; Al Fatiha – the organisation for Gay Moslems and many others struggling for their human rights.

§ And I think of all of you who come together on this magical night to affirm the fundamental unity of all human beings. To reject ignorance, hatred and error. And to embrace love, which is the ultimate foundation of all human rights.

Let the word go out from Sydney and the Gay Games of 2002 that the movement for equality is unstoppable. Its message will eventually reach the four corners of the world. These Games will be another catalyst to help make that happen. Be sure that, in the end, inclusion will replace exclusion. For the sake of the planet and of humanity it must be so.

Amusez-vous bien. Et par l’exemple de nos vies défendons les droits de l’humanité pour tous. Non seulement pour les gays. Pour tout le monde.

Enjoy yourselves. And by our lives let us be an example of respect for human rights. Not just for gays. For everyone.
 


The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG

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MCV – "Gay dads seek surrogacy rights" by Rachel Cook

January 28, 2009 Leave a comment

A proposal that seeks to align state and federal surrogacy laws has been released for public consultation and submissions.

The paper titled, A Proposal for a National Model to harmonise regulation of Surrogacy was released by the National Standing Committee of Attorney Generals (SCAG) and the ministerial councils for Community Services and Health. GLBT activists have welcomed the move.

Corey Irlam, spokesperson for the Australian Coalition for Equality told MCV:

“We are cautiously optimistic that this provides an opportunity for the states to become equal and to update their laws to access surrogacy.

“Surrogacy is a state-based issue and the federal government has said they will acknowledge any state based surrogacy laws,” Irlam said.

The paper makes several recommendations that would benefit same-sex and heterosexual couples.

If the recommendations were successful, both partners in a gay male couple would be recognised as parents of the child.

Currently in Victoria, the non-biological partner in a gay couple is not seen as a legal parent.

“Without the ability for the non-biological parent to adopt as a second parent, gay men who are entering into a surrogacy arrangement will be unable to both be seen as the legal parents of the child,” Irlam said.

“The Victorian Law Reform Commission recommended that adoption would be addressed and the government have not acted upon this.”

Currently, the non-biological parent in a gay male couple has to apply for a parenting order from the Family Court to have any legal parenting rights.

Co-moderator of Gay Dads Australia Rodney Cruise told MCV parenting orders give non-biological fathers most of the rights as a parent.

“He can apply for a passport for the child, enrol the child in school and make medical decisions. It’s still not a full parent situation, but it’s the closest thing we have in Victoria.”

Cruise said lesbian couples have long been accessing parenting orders and gay men are following in their footsteps.

“Gay dads are exercising the same process and have had success, there has been no problems getting them.”

However, Cruise warned that obtaining a parenting order is an expensive course of action.

“It involves lawyers and that can be a costly process, whereas the Holy Grail for gay dads is what’s called second parent adoption, which would allow the non-biological father to adopt their partner’s biological child and become a full parent.

“With second parent adoption you are a parent for life, unlike a parenting order which only lasts till the child is 18. So this impacts on inheritance and other issues too.”

In December 2008 the Assisted Reproductive Treatment (ART) Bill narrowly passed. Part of the legislative reform will secure the non-biological parent in a lesbian couple to now be recognised as a legal parent.

“There was a recognition that we had to get lesbian families over the line first,” Cruise said.

“Without that parliament would not have considered two men as parents.

“The next logical step is for the community and government to get their head around gay males.”

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClellend said the laws should make it easier for surrogacy couples.

“The differing laws on this complex and sensitive issue often force prospective parents to enter another Australian state or territory to have surrogate children.” McClellend said.

[Link: Original Article]

Sydney Star Observer – "What is a Dad?" by John Meyer

January 28, 2009 Leave a comment

 I joined Gay Dads NSW a week or so ago and have found another land of similarity to feel like home in.

What piqued my interest from their website was a survey asking 421 men their background interest in joining the group. The top three responses were:  31 percent have children from a previous relationship (that’s me), 35 percent were interested in exploring their options in being parents and 11 percent were surrogates.

So I sent the group an email introducing myself and received a few responses from men in the same boat.  Just to see the words in front of me to made me feel included and part of a group.  I even found a response from another dad in the same company I work in.

There are social nights to attend, afternoons in children’s parks, zoo trips and I’m sure the odd bbq.  Meeting people with young children like my two mini men will be a long sought-after dream.

Sometimes you forget how tough it is without comparing notes with someone — someone in the same size shoe.

My Troppo playmate has children, three of them, all grown up.  Comparing notes sometimes is difficult because of the age gap.  Fact is, I’m nearly closer to his daughter’s age than to his.

Last weekend, we took his youngest son and his girlfriend out for dinner in Newtown.  We clasped fingers as we strolled down King St and noticed some shiny rings in a shop window.  We skipped in and minced around for nearly half an hour trying on the most ridiculous rings.

I don’t know how the kids felt watching dad and his mate trying gawdy rings on, but it was so funny and in the end, they joined in too.

I looked up ‘dad’ in the little Oxford Dictionary I have on my desk and it led me to ‘father’ and then to ‘parent’.  In the circle of words it allows for born offspring and otherwise, adopted, surrogates et al.

In my book, a dad is a man who is blessed and tasked with a precious person to raise, love, guide and every now and then embarrass by trying on costume jewellery after dinner.

[Link: Original Article]

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Chinese New Year – The Chiang-Cruise and Lin-Lin Families

January 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Jeff, Ethan, Michael and I celebrated Chinese New Year with Debbie, Ling and Justin today. Yum Cha at Plume in Doncaster. Ling with my two boys, Ethan and Justin, looking at ants in the car park! They were fascinated!

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The Age – "Warning to couples on Indian surrogacy laws" by Matt Wade

January 26, 2009 Leave a comment

LAWYERS and doctors involved in India’s giant fertility industry have warned couples hoping to pursue surrogacy in India that the process is risky because there is no comprehensive law covering the practice.

While surrogacy is legal in India, it is regulated only by guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research, and many industry participants say these guidelines have been left behind by the rapidly expanding surrogacy industry.

The Age reported on Saturday that about 30 Australian couples were pursuing surrogacy in India. A new Indian surrogacy law is being drafted but those involved say it may not be passed for some time.

Priya Hingorani, a prominent Delhi lawyer who is part of a ministerial committee reviewing the proposed laws, says the absence of a law means couples wanting to use surrogates in India might be vulnerable.

“They are taking a risk because some of the documents that they sign ensuring that the mother will hand over the child might not be deemed legal by the courts,” Ms Hingorani said. “They need to be very careful.”

She cites the case of a Canadian couple who paid for an Indian surrogate but the mother refused to give up the child after the birth. The case is now before a Delhi court.

Anand Kumar, who runs a fertility clinic and is a member of the expert committee drafting the new law, said tighter regulations were urgently needed.

“It’s a bit of a free-for-all at the moment and everyone seems to be doing what they wish,” Dr Kumar said.

“There is a possibility of new technologies being misused and there is cause for concern.” He could not say when the proposed law would be passed.

Many women’s groups in India have expressed concern about the surrogacy system, saying it leaves mothers and babies vulnerable to exploitation.

Ms Hingorani said it was possible the new law could introduce restrictions that might affect foreigners hoping to use surrogate mothers in India.

“I think it is going to be more difficult (after the law is passed),” she said.

India’s booming surrogacy industry is estimated to be worth more than $500 million a year.

According to the National Commission for Women, there are about 3000 clinics offering surrogacy services across India.

There were cases where surrogate mothers received as little as 25,000 rupees ($A780), the commission said.

Some of the potential complications associated with international surrogacy were highlighted last year by the case of Baby Manji, a child born to an Indian surrogate mother hired by a Japanese couple.

The couple divorced during the pregnancy and a subsequent legal wrangle left the baby in limbo for more than a month. An Indian court eventually granted custody to the child’s 74-year-old grandmother.

In Australia, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General is reviewing surrogacy regulations, including the issue of Australian couples pursuing surrogacy in developing countries such as India.

[Link: Original Article]

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Pride March 2007 – 2 Weeks After Ethan was Born

January 26, 2009 Leave a comment

I just discovered this on YouTube. Two weeks after Ethan was born we were back in Australia and decided to take him to march in the Midsumma Pride March. Someone caught us (briefly) on video (have a look at time index 0.44).

Categories: Pride March

UTSpeaks: Reproductive Minefields – Can we make laws to deal with the social and ethical complexities of surrogate pregnancies?

January 25, 2009 Leave a comment

The UTSpeaks series presented on 29 October 2008 a talk by ANita Stuhmcke entitled “Reproductive Minefields – Can we make laws to deal with the social and ethical complexities of surrogate pregnancies?”

“Advances in reproductive technology, harnessed to powerful emotional drives for parenthood, have outpaced an inconsistent patchwork of Australian biomedical law.

The silence of NSW law on surrogate motherhood is now being addressed, but how effective will regulation be in balancing community standards with what people are prepared to do to have a child? Would a national approach be more effective?”

Anita Stuhmcke – Associate Professor Anita Stuhmcke has studied surrogacy and the laws surrounding it for more than 15 years, becoming a sought-out public commentator on the issues of using third parties to produce children. She teaches in the fields of tort and biomedical law in the UTS Faculty of Law, with a general research interest in exploring the limits of the law to accommodate social, political and economic change.

The material on this talk is available from the UTS Website

* flyer (PDF 52k)
* presentation slides (PDF 112k)
* talk (PDF 116k)
* audio recording (MP3 22.7 MB)

UTSPEAKS: is a free public lecture series presented by UTS experts discussing a range of important issues confronting contemporary Australia.

[Link: Original Article]

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