Jewish leaders accused of ignoring homophobia | ABC PM

October 30, 2013

Jewish leaders accused of ignoring homophobia

Alison Caldwell reported this story on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 18:34:00

Listen to MP3 of this story ( minutes)
Alternate WMA version | MP3 download

MARK COLVIN: A rift is developing in Australia’s Jewish community over the treatment of homosexuals.

A major gay and lesbian support group claims Jewish community leaders are ignoring discrimination and hate language aimed at homosexuals. It wants Jewish representative bodies to come up with a clear policy upholding gay rights.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: When two young people were shot dead in Tel Aviv last month at a gay and lesbian youth centre, Melbourne-based Michael Barnett wanted nothing more than for the leaders of the Australian Jewish community to take a stand against violence towards homosexuals. But he says his calls for action fell on deaf ears.

MICHAEL BARNETT: The Israeli leadership, the Prime Minister, the President of Israel, they spoke out against intolerance and hatred and said you know, everyone deserves respect.

Yet in Melbourne where there is the family of one of the two people killed, there wasn’t even a single statement from the community leaders.

ALISON CALDWELL: He says the silence from the Jewish leadership was symptomatic of a much deeper problem.

MICHAEL BARNETT: There’s a lot of intolerance of gay people in the Jewish people. Calling gay people perverted and disgusting, comparing gay people to people who commit incest or bestiality, there’s all this language that gets used from people like some rabbis in the orthodox world who speak out against gay people.

ALISON CALDWELL: Michael Barnett is the coordinator of Aleph Melbourne, a support group for homosexual people in the Jewish community. He believes representative groups are afraid to express their support for homosexuals for fear of offending ultra-orthodox groups in the community.

MICHAEL BARNETT: I want every state and national Jewish peak body in Australia to have a specific, unambiguous policy addressing the persecution of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews in regard to homophobic hate and intolerance, irrespective of whether it originates from outside or inside the Jewish community.

The policies must be enforced with the same zero tolerance afforded to anti-Semitism and holocaust rhetoric and other hate crimes.

ALISON CALDWELL: Much of his anger is levelled at a Jewish blog which recently described homosexuality as “depravity and debasement” and extolled the virtues of reprogramming homosexuals.

In July, a Sydney rabbi wrote to the Australian Jewish News, comparing homosexual intercourse with adultery, bestiality and incest.

JOHN SEARLE: If it’s a matter that’s guided by religious laws, then those laws will presumably be applied. Now I can’t say very much about those because I’m not an expert in those areas.

ALISON CALDWELL: John Searle is the president of the Jewish Community Council in Victoria. It describes itself as the roof body of Victorian Jewry. On its website, it says it shows zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism and racism but it has nothing to say about supporting or protecting gay or lesbian people within the Jewish community.

JOHN SEARLE: If we need to rewrite a policy that was written some time ago, we can certainly look at that and if it needs to be adjusted in any way, we can adjust that.

ALISON CALDWELL: John Searle says he’s against vilification of any sort.

JOHN SEARLE: The JCCV has issued statements condemning vilification of all minority groups, including vilification based on grounds of sexual orientation, sexual preference.

ALISON CALDWELL: He says the council has sought advice from numerous sources on how to be more inclusive and will invite gay and lesbian support groups to events in the future.

Michael Barnett says it’s not enough.

MICHAEL BARNETT: Lip service, motherhood statements, platitudes, rhetoric, anything but “yes, we’re going to do this and take it seriously”.

JOHN SEARLE: I reject the allegation or assertion that inviting people to participate in community events is simply lip service.

ALEX FEIN: My blog is called The Sensible Jew.

ALISON CALDWELL: Jewish blogger Alex Fein has written about the issue in recent weeks. She says the vast majority of Jews support homosexuals and describes those who don’t as minority extremists. But she says groups like the Jewish Community Council of Victoria need to be more proactive.

ALEX FEIN: It’s not enough to say that homophobia is problematic. I think all people of good faith would like to see concrete action.

MARK COLVIN: Alex Fein the author of the blog known as the sensiblejew.wordpress.com, ending Alison Caldwell’s report.


Not asking. Demanding equal rights!

September 19, 2013


Gregory and Michael – Protesting for Love

September 19, 2013


Interview on Radio Skid Row “Workers Radio” – Dec 24 2012

January 8, 2013

Workers RadioI was interviewed by John August on “Workers Radio” Radio Skid Row 88.9FM (www.radioskidrow.org) at 7:30am on December 24 2012.

Topics of discussion included:

  • Judaism’s attitude towards same-sex marriage
  • Child sexual abuse in the Jewish community
  • Dame Elisabeth Murdoch’s patronage of the Australian Family Association

The interview begins at 4:58 here.


Queer Jewish Crisis | The Stirrer

September 27, 2012

Check out “Queer Jewish Crisis“, my first contribution on The Stirrer.


Queer Jewish Crisis

by: Michael Barnett

September 25, 2012 – Family, Religion – Tagged: , , 3 comments

I recently attended a talk by Keshet Australia aimed at getting its message out to the Jewish community.  The local Keshet, based on its USA counterpart, advertises itself as “a Jewish GLBTIGQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transgender, Intersex and Gender Queer) movement to better educate Australian Schools on how to educate a Jewish child on GLBTIGQ.”

At this talk a flyer was distributed, the opening paragraphs of which described a crisis of Queer[1] departure from the Jewish community and how Keshet is placed to address it.  As a seasoned activist this crisis was news to me, with my priorities centring on reduction of isolation, self-harm and suicide.

Legitimate crises in the local Jewish community include the state of aged care and the entrenched and chronic covering up of child sex-abuse.

Other community crises surround alcohol abuse, domestic violence, poverty, private school fees and intermarriage.  The cost of keeping kosher is even of concern to some.

Another almost ignored real crisis is the rate of self-harm and suicide in the Melbourne Jewish community.  Rough figures were published in 2011 claiming approximately two people a month attempt suicide or self-harm.  Taken together with the alarming rate of suicide amongst same-sex attracted people and this issue should be given elevated priority.

My experience of coming out as gay in the Jewish community was one of compassion at best and indifference at worst.  I was not strongly religiously observant, but I continued to attend an Orthodox synagogue for some years and my friends and family accepted me and continued to include me and connect with me as they had always done.  In fact, for a number of years after coming out my Jewish “identity” actually strengthened.

Individual experiences will no doubt differ to mine, depending on the attitudes of the person’s family, friends and religious community.

I have made a number of observations about what happens when people self-identify as other than heterosexual.  If their religious context is accepting, they will open up to their peers and live a full life merging their sexuality and their cultural context.  If their religious context is intolerant they will more than likely find a context to express their sexuality at a safe distance from their cultural community, keeping both alive but separate.  I have not yet experienced many who give up their entire religious community simply to allow unhindered sexual self-expression.

And so I challenge this perceived “crisis”.  I feel it is a phenomenon that is alarmist, unfounded and exaggerated.

If a person departs their Jewish identity due to peer intolerance when they “come out”, it may potentially induce a situational crisis for their friends and family due to a sense of confusion, bewilderment, loss and even grief.  But keeping a sense of perspective, these situations are not ubiquitous or universal.

There may be legitimate grounds for concern over people leaving the Jewish community but the reasons for this are potentially varied and complex.  One mid-20’s community-minded gay woman recently told me that her university and career choices took her away from much of the Jewish surrounds that she was immersed in during her secondary school years.

Disengagement from the Jewish community may occur for ideological reasons, lack of need for a connection, or prioritising a connection with a different community.  All reasons are legitimate.

People leaving the Jewish community is not a crisis or even a problem if they make these choices voluntarily, free from duress.

If a situation arises that drives many away from a community, the crisis should be identified as the underlying reason why people are leaving rather than the fact that people are leaving.  We invariably seek the path of least conflict.

As to Keshet’s claim on their flyer “We need to keep Jews, Jewish”, I disagree.  We need to keep people in the Jewish community happy and alive.


 [1] GLBTIQ / same-sex attracted / gender diverse, etc

 


Meeting Anna Burke, Federal MP for Chisholm

August 12, 2012

20120811 Meeting with Anna Burke MP for ChisholmYesterday Gregory and I met with my federal MP Anna Burke (Chisholm). We talked about how the law makes us feel like second-class citizens and how our relationship is inferior to the others of Gregory’s 10 married siblings and my brother’s.

Anna told us her concern was that she had two vocal Greek Orthodox Churches in her electorate who were putting the pressure on her to vote against marriage equality and that there weren’t the numbers to support it.

I suggested maybe she ramp up the quality of the response facility on her web site, to help gauge the level of support more effectively. She didn’t seem too keen.

However Anna’s assistant Janet was extremely supportive and wants the law changed so she has the right to marry her girlfriend. It’s nice to know there’s a dyke in the Anna Burke office keeping Anna honest.

Oh yes, and the email I called Julia and Tony first class c*nts, that tickled Janet pink. :)


I kissed a man and Allah-ked it

April 17, 2012

A group of radical, fanatical Jihadi Islamic protesters gathered at the Global Atheist Convention on Sunday April 15 2012.  Seemingly they felt that atheism was a threat to humanity and their very existence.

Gregory and I had a smooch in front of these whack-jobs and they started howling that we would “burn in hell”.

Our friend Pete Darwin captured the moment with my trusty Nikon and the rest is history.

A couple of my dear friends giving some love back to the protesting Muslims at the Global Atheist Convention today!

“A couple of my dear friends giving some love back to the protesting Muslims at the Global Atheist Convention today!” — Pete Darwin

There’s been a bunch of coverage online:

If you find any other places that have covered this story, please let me know.

Original photographs on Picasa and Facebook.

Thanks to Katy Perry for inspiration.


Marriage Equality vs Catholic Bishop Christopher Prowse

March 30, 2012

Dear Catholic Bishop Christopher Prowse,

Your lies and untruths do you and your boy-raping paedophile-protecting Catholic Church no justice.

You have no credibility and you make no sense.

You perpetuate vile attitudes.

I dislike you because you are full of hate and intolerance.

Michael Barnett.


Now that I’m married…

March 29, 2012

Tonight my partner Gregory and I got married.  We made a public declaration, affirming our love for each other.  We were dressed in our sartorial best, freshly shorn and groomed like two gay blades.

20120326 Michael and Gregory on the Adam Hills wedding set

We had a bucks night the week before and we even had a lovely party afterward, with wonderful catering.  Oh, and there were bomboniere.

I have to be honest with you.  It wasn’t a real wedding, and we didn’t really get married.  But yes, there was a wedding, on TV, in which as reality actors, we pretended to get married.  You see, currently in Australia two men like Gregory and me are not allowed to get married to each other.  That’s gay.

But despite the mean-spirited Howardian legalistic prohibition on us blokes tying the knot, the lovely team at Adam Hills In Gordon St Tonight decided to throw us a big ole gay wedding.  And throw us a wedding they did.  There were photoshoots, interviews, a special bucks and hens night (coz there were some chicks as well as some blokes wanting to tie the knot), the main event, wedding presents and even a cocktail reception afterward.  Oh, and there was live entertainment too, although it seemed more like it had been freshly exhumed.  And all at tax-payer expense.  Thank you tax paying Australia, and especially Jim Wallace and Bill Muehlenberg, coz I know how much you hip dudes would have wanted to help us celebrate our homosexual union.

If you know me you’d know that I’ve been very activisty in raising awareness of the discrimination that a not insignificant section of Australia’s population faces when it comes to equality in relationship recognition.  I’ve protested (peacefully) at the Equal Love rallies.  I helped my partner campaign as a then-candidate for the Secular Party of Australia in the 2010 Federal Election (because the party supported marriage equality).  I manage the Proud to be a Second Class Australian Facebook group, with a moniker aimed to draw attention to being treated as second class by the Federal Government.  I give money to Get Up! to campaign for marriage equality.  I’m even a paid member of Australian Marriage Equality.

I don’t think I could possibly make it any clearer that I am trying to achieve a turnaround in the marriage legislation in Australia, to remove the discriminatory words that, for no good reason, prevents me from marrying my partner.  That said, we are already living in a legally recognised relationship under Victorian state legislation because we entered a civil union on April 21, 2010.  Sadly though this relationship is only valid in Victoria and carries no legal weight anywhere else in the world.  It’s also not the same as being married.  You might ask why?  Well, quite simply, because it’s not a marriage.  It’s a civil union, or a registered relationship, or a domestic partnership, or whatever else you want to call it, but it’s not a marriage.

20100421 Relationships Register

Do I want to get married?  Good question. Yes, and no.  To be honest I don’t really know.  Parts of me want to get married and then go and say to those who don’t believe in equality “See, two poofs can now get married, so stick your bigotry…”.  More than that I want to be a positive example of a successful same-sex relationship, to help empower those in their closets, and say “Gregory and I are two men, married to each other.  If we can do it, so can you.  Be proud of who you are”.  Other parts of me simply don’t like the old-fashioned, out-dated notion of marriage that binds two people together, until either one dies or they get a divorce.  Camels and goats must be fatted and dripping in gold chokers if you must give a dowry.

I am committed to being in my relationship with Gregory, and irrespective of any piece of paper or legal status, we love each other very much and want to be deeply interconnected in each other’s lives.  I know what we mean to each other.  We’re special in each other’s eyes and hearts and that’s something legislation can’t change.  But it can make us equal in society, and that’s what we both want.  Equality.  Incidentally, some narrow-minded folk believe that two gay men can’t be equal in society, and therefore shouldn’t get married, because we can’t have children, or that even that we’d be depriving the children of a mother, and therefore bad parents, blah blah blah.  With two well-adjusted adult children under his belt Gregory certainly isn’t looking to have any more.  And we are equal in society.

20120326 Panorama of wedding couples on Adam Hills TV set

Now, around the middle of February this year Gregory sent me an email asking if I wanted to be in the Adam Hills IGST mass gay wedding.  I pondered the idea and then without consulting Gregory I sent in an application to be part of the wedding.  I thought that if he was tempting fate with asking me to be part of a TV wedding, I’d accept the challenge and commit him, and me, to being part of it.  :)

We were accepted by the IGST team and told there were going to be a number of events over the coming weeks culminating in the TV wedding.  It was becoming exciting.  A bit like a real wedding.  Photos, what to wear, bring some food, look good, get hair cut (#2 clippers on each other…), vajazzle, you know, the usual stuff.  There was a sense of anticipation.  A bit like a real wedding.

We told our family and friends about this.  They got excited.  Very excited.  Colleagues were talking, even those who were usually a little uneasy with the “gay” thing were getting excited for Gregory and me.  I was even asked by a colleague, who only last year told me he didn’t believe in gay marriage, whether I was going to invite the guys from work to a bucks night.  After a coffee and a chat he even seemed comfortable with the notion that marriage equality might have some merit in treating people on an equal basis.  Yes, equality is about being equal.

Gregory told me many of his colleagues were having kittens because he was getting married.  They really couldn’t contain their excitement for him.  And on Facebook I was getting a variety of well-wishes from people who wanted to know when “it” was and then wished us all sorts of lovely things in anticipation of the big day (or is it the big gay…?).  Things were abuzz.

20120308 Mikey & Gregory pre wedding glitzy pic

I really started feeling like I was getting married, for real.  When we got civil unionated in 2010 people were happy for us, but not to the same level as they had become around the IGST wedding event.  It was as if the notion of marriage conveyed a special status, over and above any other sort of life event or relationship recognition.  Funny that.  Because it does.  It’s the ultimate in happy.  And it’s the ultimate in silly too.  Just look at the amount of money people throw at weddings.  It’s big business.

Quite remarkably though, and I think this is about as significant as it gets, Gregory told me that tonight, on his way home, a dear friend of his told him that he had decided that it wasn’t so bad after all if two blokes wanted to get married.  He threw his religious belief coins up in the air and they both landed queen-side up.  And the world didn’t stop, and the sky didn’t fall in.

20120308 Mikey and Gregory pre-wedding photoshoot

People have been talking because of the IGST wedding event.  They are talking about how lovely it is to see two guys getting married, and two gals getting married, and they cried and they were happy.  These people and conversations are actually changing attitudes and opening minds.  Oh, and my Facebook account has melted with all the wonderful messages from people who saw us on the TV and loved that we were getting married.  I have never ever had a bigger response to anything on my Facebook page than to our participation in this event.  It’s really quite overwhelming, and humbling.

So we got TV married tonight, in a very happily-ever-after way.  Two handsome princes rode off into the sunset and shared a bit of love around the place, and hopefully they made a difference.

PS.  If you missed the TV coverage of this event, you can catch up on it here.

PPS.  If you want to tell the Australian government why you support marriage equality, you can make a submission here.  It only takes a few minutes.  Be quick as the deadline is April 2, 2012.  You can read other people’s public submissions on the site, to get an idea of what they are saying.  Speak from the heart.  It need only be a few paragraphs.  Thanks.


Adam Hills in Gordon St Tonight – Big Gay Wedding – March 14 2012

March 16, 2012

Barnett to be married at public expense

March 15, 2012

[SOURCE]

Photographer, blogger, popular Melbourne gay identity and significant Qmelb contributor, Michael Barnett, is to be featured in a mass gay wedding with his handsome partner. The wedding (and what has been advertised as a stag night / hens night) will be hosted on Australia’s national television network’s by comedian Adam Hills over the next two Wednesday evenings. This will clash with Melbourne’s Queer Film Festival. The wedding will be paid for by Australian taxpayers, a service the ABC has never offered to straight couples. At this stage it is not known whether the ABC or Barnett will be releasing a video of the post wedding celebrations.

Michael Glover
East Melbourne

(The Gordon St Mass Same-Sex TV Wedding Extravaganza is just around the corner! This inaugural event will happen on March 26 and airs Wednesday March 28 at 8:30pm.)


A peace of pride

April 24, 2011

Channel 31 TV’s Jewish show The Shtick was at the Melbourne Pride March on February 6 2011.  Henry Greener and his team spent a few moments talking to me in the marshalling area by Lakeside Drive just before the march.  They then made their way toward the end of Fitzroy Street to capture the colour and excitement of the parade.


When Michael met Gregory (or “A Delicatessen of Delights”)

March 25, 2011

I wrote about The Potential Wedding Album (TPWA) project last October.  It’s a great initiative that aims to raise awareness of the discrimination that Australians who are in a non-heterosexual relationship face in relation to Government recognition of their relationship.

To help get this important message out, TPWA have now partnered with Same Same and are running a series of interviews with same-sex couples, talking about how they met.  The first interview in the series is with me and my partner Gregory.  Read our story, and if you’re inspired, contact both TPWA and Same Same and tell your story too.


The Sacred and the Secular: The Same Sex Marriages Case – An Evening with Albie Sachs

September 22, 2010

On Monday night I had the privilege of hearing Albie Sachs talk about his involvement in legalising same-sex marriage in South Africa.  An amazing person, someone we can all learn something from.

See below for details on the event and some background on Albie Sachs.

Albie Sachs, Gabi Crafti, Michael Barnett & Gregory Storer (photo by Gaby Jung); Sep 20 2010

Albie Sachs, Gabi Crafti, Michael Barnett & Gregory Storer; Sep 20 2010 (Photo by Gaby Jung)

The Sacred and the Secular: The Same Sex Marriages Case – An Evening with Albie Sachs

Organisation The Human Rights Law Resource Centre
Date 20 September 2010
Description The Human Rights Law Resource Centre (HRLRC) invites you to an evening with Albie Sachs, Former Judge of the South African Constitutional Court, on the topic of ‘The Sacred and the Secular: The Same Sex Marriages Case’.Sachs was appointed by Nelson Mandela as an inaugural judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. He was a member of the National Executive of the ANC and played a crucial role in South Africa’s transition to democracy, including by contributing towards the drafting the South African Bill of Rights. Whilst in exile in Mozambique in 1988, Sachs was badly injured by a car bomb placed by South African security agents. He lost an arm and the sight of one eye as a result.

As a judge of the Constitutional Court, Sachs was responsible for many landmark human rights judgments, including in relation to equality, non-discrimination and social and economic rights. In 1991, Sachs won the Alan Paton Award for his book ‘Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter’. He is also the author of ‘Justice in South Africa’ (1974); ‘The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs’ (1966); ‘Sexism and the Law’ (1979); and ‘The Free Diary of Albie Sachs’ (2004). Sachs’ latest book, ‘The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law’, will be launched in Melbourne at this seminar.

Sachs is visiting Australia to deliver the University of New South Wales Law Faculty Annual Hal Wootten Lecture.

Time: 5.45 pm for 6.00 pm to 7.30 pm.

Venue DLA Phillips Fox, Level 21, 140 William Street, Melbourne
Cost $30 ordinary; $15 concession
Contact admin@pilch.org.au

The Sacred and the Secular:

The Same-Sex Marriages Case

with

Albie Sachs

Former Judge of the South African
Constitutional Court

Albie Sachs was appointed by Nelson Mandela as an
inaugural judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa,
from which he retired in 2009. He was a member of the
National Executive of the ANC and played a crucial role in
South Africa’s transition to democracy, including through
the drafting of the South African Bill of Rights. In 1988,
while in exile in Mozambique, he was badly injured by a car
bomb placed by South African security agents, losing an
arm and the sight of an eye.
As a judge of the Constitutional Court, Justice Sachs was
responsible for many landmark human rights judgments,
including in relation to equality, non-discrimination and
social and economic rights.
In 1991, Albie Sachs won the Alan Paton Award for his
book Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter. He is also the
author of Justice in South Africa (1974), The Jail Diary of
Albie Sachs (1966), Sexism and the Law (1979) and The
Free Diary of Albie Sachs (2004). His most recent book,
The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law, will be launched in
Melbourne at this seminar.
Albie Sachs is visiting Australia to deliver the University of
New South Wales Law Faculty Annual Hal Wootten
Lecture.


A Pluralist Panel on Homosexuality & Judaism: comment, photos and my address

June 8, 2010

I was invited to participate in “A Pluralist Panel on Homosexuality and Judaism” by Hineni (Melbourne) and the Monash Jewish Students Society on Thursday June 3 2010.  The other panelists were Michael Cohen, Rabbi Shamir Caplan (Orthodox), Rabbi Ehud Bandel (Conservative), Rabbi Fred Morgan (Progressive).  Absent from the panel due to illness was Hinde Ena Burstin who was to talk from a Jewish lesbian perspective.

Kudos to the event organisers Hineni and MonJSS for bringing this much-needed discussion to the community.  It is perhaps the first time an intelligent, informed public discussion has been had in the Melbourne Jewish community on anything to do with homosexuality.

It was put to me that the evening was going to be controversial, not so much because of homosexuality being in the topic, but that there was going to be one each of a Progressive, Conservative and Orthodox rabbi (a Neapolitan assortment?) in the same room at the same time.  I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.  :)

Aside from a few minor technical and logistical glitches the evening went really well.  Each of the first four speakers delivered their address from their respective professional perspectives with no real surprises or revelations.

The Orthodox perspective given apologised for being intolerant of homosexuality and didn’t offer very much real hope for same-sex attracted people.

The Conservative perspective was up front about being “in the middle” of tradition and change, yet said that gay men and women were equal within the community and their sexuality needed to be taken into account and not ignored.

The Progressive perspective similarly acknowledged the importance of a person’s sexuality and went on to say that the Progressive movement was supportive of same-sex relationships and would acknowledge them as much as possible, yet they weren’t on par with heterosexual relationships.

Both the Conservative and Progressive perspectives put forward also acknowledged that children could be successfully raised in a same-sex relationship, something that the Orthodox perspective didn’t seem to have the capacity to understand.

Audience members were asked to write questions down on paper supplied and then at the end of the panel presentations, a selection of questions would be put to the panelists.  The questions asked were intelligent for the most part but didn’t ask the tough questions that I felt needed to be asked of the rabbis.

What made me most unsettled about the line-up of speakers (aside from me) was that they were all heterosexual men, dictating the terms of acceptance, to one degree or another, of same-sex attracted men and women and our relationships.  I would really like to have seen a female rabbi (yes, they do exist in the Progressive world) or an openly gay one (yes, they do exist) speak on the topic.

My thanks again to Hineni and MonJSS for organising the evening.  My thanks also to my wonderful partner Gregory Storer for giving me the necessary support.  His photographs of the evening can be viewed on Picasa and Facebook.

My address from the evening can be read here.

Michael.


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