8 year old Abbey writes a letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Marriage Equality

August 5, 2014

It really doesn’t get more heart-felt or political than this letter written by our 8 year-old niece Abbey today.

Tony, listen to the kids!

Michael.

To Tony Abbott
my name is Abbey and I am 8 years old.
My unkls are gaye and we had to go to
New Zeland to have ther wedding it is going
To be on TV it’s called Living with the Enemy they
wont to get marred in Astralea but thats eligle
I will write to you once a day for a week.
P.S. I wold like the law changed.

20140805 Abbey's Letter


I will. I do.

September 11, 2013

Tonight Gregory and I went to dinner at Bridges Bali, a delightful restaurant that we had lunch at last Friday.  We returned because the service, food, atmosphere and location were impeccable.  Quite the combination if you get it all right.  Having had the entrée of rare roast lamb and the main of Thai-inspired grilled Barramundi, we settled for espressos and Cointreau chocolate mousse.  Yes, mousse.

And it was during the mousse, yes – mousse, that the conversation turned to one we’d had a number of times in the past, about marriage and our thoughts on it.  Yet, this time, there was a different tone to the conversation.  Gregory became a little more serious and actually asked me if I’d marry him, not if I’d ever marry him, but if I’d actually marry him.  The sort of question that demanded a yes answer, here and now.

Oh, I thought, this is the real thing, not a humorous conversation, but an actual marriage proposal.  I think I started to cry and was trying to maintain my composure between polite interruptions from the impeccably appointed wait-staff who clearly weren’t trained in the art of detecting a marriage proposal between two middle-aged men.  Wiping away the odd tear or two I said yes and continued trying to untangle the mass of emotions that had beset me, amidst what could only be described as one of the most idyllic moments of my life.

A quick phone-call from me back to Australia to let the folks know and a quick text message or two from Gregory back to his kids and sister and the deal was sealed.  I have to say, finding the courage to make that phone call, and finding the actual words to say were amazingly more fraught than I would ever have expected.  But having announced our engagement felt good, and it felt right.  I couldn’t think of a better man to be engaged to get married to.

Of course, the question has been asked, in which country will you guys get married.  Not a question most engaged couples get asked I suspect, because the expectation is they would celebrate their nuptials at home, wherever that was for them.  Yet for us two Australians, getting married at home is not so straightforward, because there is no legal option for us to do this in Australia currently.  We may be able to get married in a foreign consulate in Australia, but that wouldn’t be on Australian soil, and there wouldn’t be the stunningly beautiful Australian Coat of Arms on that marriage certificate.

It was a very simple decision for us.  We are going to get married to each other in Australia, under Australian law, on Australian soil.  It may be in the next three years, or it may be longer, but it will happen in both our lifetimes and most likely sooner than later.

We haven’t exchanged rings.  We probably won’t.  Rings are not our style.  We did get an ‘engagement ring’ from Facebook though, when we made that irrevocable and gay announcement to our social networks:

Engaged

So, thank you Gregory, you’ve changed my life, tonight, and every day since we met on that Tuesday in November 2008.  I love you.

P.S.  I can’t believe my enjoyment of the perfect chocolate mousse was interrupted by a marriage proposal.  Honestly.  Timing!


Australian Gay Rights | YouTube

March 16, 2013


Fresh revelations of paedophilia perpetrated by an Orthodox rabbi in Melbourne’s Jewish community

November 6, 2012

The following message was distributed by Manny Waks via his Facebook page on November 4 2012.  I encourage anyone who has any relevant information to come forward to the police.  Manny has requested any direct contact with him to be via Facebook.

Over the year or so since I went public with my story of child sexual abuse at Melbourne’s Yeshivah, I’ve been entrusted with allegations relating to numerous other victims/perpetrators.

I want to share one of these with you. A prominent Jewish Australian who’s a household name, informed me that during his Bar-Mitzvah classes (several decades ago) at an Orthodox synagogue (not ultra-Orthodox), the prominent and highly respected rabbi (who for the time being will remain nameless) would expose himself and masturbate in front of him. At this stage, decades later, the victim still does not want to share his story with the police – as he told me, even his parents aren’t aware of his experience.

The reason I’ve elected to share this particular serious allegation is to point out a number of important points:
• anyone can be a victim;
• anyone can be a perpetrator;
• it is not just a Yeshivah/Adass/ultra-Orthodox issue; and
• many victims are still reluctant to share their experience with anyone, including family members and the police.

After holding discussions with the police on this matter, they have advised that they are unable to take any action, as the victim must provide a statement. Consistent with the way paedophiles work, it is reasonable to assume that this prominent rabbi would have done similar things to other children.

So I urge anyone who was also exposed to any such experience, especially similar to the story described above, to report the matter to the police – of course if you are aware of any other cases of sexual abuse, whether perpetrated against you or anyone else, please report this information to the police. It’s important that they are informed of everything so that they can have a broader picture of what has been happening. Because the picture that I currently have is very grim – in my opinion it’s not a question of whether instances of abuse were on a similar scale to the Catholic Church but rather whether this will all become public…..

Contact details (Melbourne, Australia):

Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team
(03) 9556 6129
Detective Senior Constable Jonathan RUSSELL (or others in the team)

If you’re reluctant to make a confidential statement to the police, please realise that you’re not alone – it’s common! But please consider that if you go to the police, you’ll be:
• pursuing justice;
• assisting other past victims; and
• protecting potential victims.

Please feel free to contact me in complete confidence if I can be of any assistance.


Two reasons why the ECAJ must vocalise its support for marriage equality

December 15, 2011

On December 3 2011 the Australian Labor Party voted in favour of supporting marriage equality.  This was promptly followed by a statement of support from the Union for Progressive Judaism and simultaneously a statement of opposition from the Orthodox-based Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia.  J-Wire then reported a message from Jewish Community supporting Marriage Equality (J4ME) along with a statement from the ECAJ:

Peter Wertheim, the executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told J-Wire that his organisation had no policy in place relating to same sex marriage.

The ECAJ recently passed a motion that calls for “mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the [Jewish] community” and also acknowledges “that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community”.  This motion appears on the ECAJ Platform.

Peter Wertheim has recently been promoting via email the fact that Israel is the most GLBT-friendly place in the Middle East and that it is the only safe place for GLBT people to live openly and out in the Middle East.  Indeed, the Israeli situation for GLBT people is mostly good.  In some cases Israel is actually more advanced than Australia in affording GLBT people human rights.  One such case is that Israel recognises foreign marriages of same-sex couples whereas Australia has chosen to legislate against such recognition.

I wish to make two points regarding the recent support from the ECAJ for GLBT people and the promotion of Israel as a relatively safe GLBT space.

Firstly, the human rights and equality that GLBT people in Israel have been afforded have come about through changes to civil law and have for the most part been independent of (Orthodox) Jewish law or “halacha”.  If halacha was the law of the land in Israel, GLBT people would have no equality or recognition in any form.  This is evidenced by the aforementioned ORA statement and the general attitude of Jewish Orthodoxy to homosexuality.  This religious intolerance of homosexuality is not dissimilar to that which exists in the Islamic states that surround Israel.

It is the secular and progressive attitudes toward equality and human rights that has made Israel the beacon of tolerance and acceptance of GLBT people in the Middle East that it is.  With ongoing work in this area, such as that around surrogacy and parenting (here and here), Israel will become an increasingly proud oasis of acceptance for GLBT people and will no doubt be further promoted as such by Zionist advocates.

Secondly, with the ECAJ calling for respect of GLBT people in the community and the acknowledgement that there is “unlawful discrimination” against GLBT people, such as in the case of the Australian Federal Marriage Act, I find it hard to understand that the ECAJ chooses to remain silent on marriage equality.

In fact, this silence betrays the ECAJ’s platform on Social Inclusion, where it states:

1. Social Inclusion
This Council:
1.1 NOTES that it is the vision of the ECAJ to create and support a community in which all Australians, including all Jewish Australians:
(a) feel valued and their cultural differences are respected;
(b) have a fair opportunity to meet their material and other needs; and
(c) are equally empowered as citizens to participate in and contribute to all facets of life in the wider community;
1.2 NOTES that as Australians we take great pride in what we see as the uniquely Australian values of social egalitarianism, “mateship” and a “fair go”;
1.3 REAFFIRMS our profound commitment on behalf of the Australian Jewish community to the dignity of difference, gender equality, and a belief in the equality of humankind;

Here the ECAJ is calling for “equal empowerment”, “social egalitarianism” and “a belief in the equality of humankind”.  To my understanding, marriage equality fits all of these three concepts.  To clarify, egalitarianism is defined as “affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people.”

I believe the ECAJ does want marriage equality to be legislated, but has not yet taken the time to think about the implications of not vocalising its support for it.  The ECAJ is an organisation that has a genuine concern for the human rights of all people in every nation on this planet.  Further, it is inherent in the Jewish psyche to understand what deprivation of human rights can lead to.

I sincerely urge the ECAJ to consider its stance on marriage equality in general and speak out in favour of removing the legislated discrimination that all GLBT Australians face when it comes to recognition of our relationships.  It is without a doubt in the ECAJ’s best interests to advocate marriage equality, as doing so will have the double reward of making Australia a better place for all its citizens, and simultaneously making the beacon of light in Israel, the country that it is so proud of, shine even brighter.


Executive Council of Australian Jewry passes motion in support of GLBT people

November 28, 2011

On July 27 2011 I had a conversation with Manny Waks, then president of the Canberra Jewish Community and a Vice President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, in which he agreed to sponsor a motion at the 2011 AGM of the ECAJ promoting greater respect of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Australia’s Jewish community.

Four months later, on November 27 2011, the following resolution was unanimously passed at the ECAJ AGM:

Policy on counteracting hatred and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons

This Council:

RECOGNISES that the Australian Jewish community is part of the Jewish people worldwide, with a shared history, culture and religious tradition is at the same time diverse and pluralistic, with its members holding different views on a range of issues;

CALLS FOR mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the community, despite any strongly held differences; recognition that disagreement is possible in ways that do not vilify other persons or their views; and avoidance of any public or private conduct that incites hatred, ridicule or contempt of another person or class of persons on the ground of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and, in accordance with the aforesaid principles;

OPPOSES any form of hatred of any person on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity;

ACKNOWLEDGES that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community, and to provide adequate services and support for them and their families; and

CALLS ON persons and organisations in the Jewish community to support that work both in our community and in the wider Australian community.

This motion passed by the ECAJ joins similar motions passed by the Victorian, New South Wales and ACT Jewish communities.  Whilst time will tell how effective these motions will be in helping provide a safer and more tolerant place for GLBT Australians, I am confident that this milestone in the history of Australian Jewry will help pave the way to a greater understanding, acceptance and inclusion of GLBT people.


The Commitment Project

March 16, 2011

One of the better kept secrets of same-sex relationships are the number of people who have been together for a really long time.  Over the years I’ve met many same-sex couples who have been in long-term relationships.

The Commitment Project is a web site that showcases same-sex relationships that have outlasted the median length of an Australian marriage, which is approximately 8.8 years.

Have a wander through the pages and enjoy the stories and photos you’ll find there.  Some great examples of love, against the odds.  While you’re at it, connect via the Facebook page for the project and help pass the word on.

I hope I can one day be a part of this project.  I’ve got another 6 or so years before I’m eligible.  I am confident that Australian law will allow same-sex marriages by then though.


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