Not Yet Equal

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  • Last update: 17 October 2011
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  • Author: Ruth McNair & Nikos Thomacos
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'Not Yet Equal' is a Report of the VGLRL Same Sex Relationships Survey 2005.

"The recent legislation to proscribe same sex marriage is one of the most shameful pieces of legislation that has ever been passed by the Australian Parliament."

Alastair Nicholson, retired Chief Justice of the Australian Family Court
The Age, 20 September 2004, page 11.

"I want the ability to register our partnership but only if it gives us equal rights, otherwise what is the point?"

Survey respondent, 2005

 

Executive Summary

Why this study was undertaken?

For same sex couples and same sex parented families, being equal means being fully accepted by our society. Fully accepted at all levels: amongst our private circle of friends, family and colleagues; within the broader community; in social policy and in legislation. Being equal within society means having equal protection under the law. It means being regarded as equally able to form significant relationships and to parent, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity. It means having these relationships protected from discrimination. In Australia, there is ample evidence that same sex couples and families are not yet equal.

The Study itself

  • 'Not Equal Yet' represents the views, feelings and aspirations of 652 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI)Victorians regarding the types of relationship recognition they want, the parenting options they seek, and the discrimination their relationships face.
  • Two thirds of the participants were female and one third male. Five respondents identified as transgender and one as intersex.
  • The average age was mid-thirties, with very few people under 18 or over 60 years of age.
  • The majority were of Anglo-Celtic ethnicity, with other ethnic groups under-represented.
  • The sample was highly educated, with one third of women and over one quarter of men having achieved postgraduate university qualifications.
  • 95.1% had been in at least one same sex relationship.
  • 76.5% were currently in a same sex relationship.
  • Over 80% of those in relationships demonstrate this commitment by recognising their partner as their next-of-kin, owning property together and/or sharing of finances.
  • Almost 19% had children and a further 22% were planning to have children.

Key Findings

Openness about same sex relationships to family and friends

  • Almost 90% of respondents had told everyone (or almost everyone) in their personal circle. Only four people had told no one, or almost no one.
  • Reactions of close friends to this information were overwhelmingly positive, however up to 10% of respondents had had negative reactions from either or both parents.
  • 12.7% had not told their father about their same sex relationship.
  • People in same sex relationships want their relationships to be recognised as meaningful and significant and were open about their relationships in spite of the real risk of negative reactions that they face.

Concealment of relationship in public

  • 75% had publicly concealed their same sex relationship at some time to avoid discrimination. This high level of concealment was the same regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, education level, number of past same sex relationships, length of current relationship or the level of interdependency.
  • Discrimination is something that the LGBTI community negotiate on a daily basis and results in fear and lives hidden to avoid such discrimination.

Desired forms of legal relationship recognition

  • Over 98% of respondents supported legal recognition of same sex relationships. This level has been demonstrated repeatedly in Victorian LGBTI surveys over the past four years.
  • Over three quarters felt that domestic partnership (currently available in Victoria) and federal same sex marriage should be available to same sex couples.
  • 60% felt that registration of same sex relationships should be available.
  • The most favoured personal choice of relationship recognition is marriage (45%), followed by domestic partnership recognition (37%) and by registration (15%).

Changes in personal preference for relationship recognition

  • Almost twice as many respondents favoured marriage compared to a similar survey in 2001, and slightly less in the current survey would choose registration.
  • Although same sex domestic partnership recognition (which was introduced in 2001 in Victoria) was still considered important, it was no longer sufficient for two-thirds of respondents.
  • As with other areas of social change, younger people in same sex relationships are more likely to view marriage as the appropriate form of relationship recognition for their relationships.

Parenting

  • Around 90% of respondents agreed that same sex couples should have access to the use of donor sperm to achieve a pregnancy (via donor insemination) and to IVF.
  • Over 80% supported the non-birth parent being legally presumed to be the parent.
  • Over three-quarters supported access to all forms of adoption for same sex couples.
  • Three-quarters of respondents supported altruistic surrogacy being available to same sex couples.
  • LGBTI people are parents and want legal certainty as parents in the fullest sense of the word.

Experiences of public insult

  • Over 80% had felt publicly insulted due to negative public statements about same sex relationships or same sex parented families. This high level did not differ according to age, sexual identity, gender or ethnicity.
  • The more committed a respondent was to their same sex relationship (in terms of time together and level of interdependency) and the more open they were, the more likely they were to have felt publicly insulted.
  • Unfortunately, LGBTI people continue to experience extremely high levels of harassment.

Personal experiences of harassment related to the same sex relationship

  • Over 70% had been verbally abused, regardless of gender. The more open they were about their relationship to their friends, family and colleagues, the more likely they were to have been verbally abused.
  • Almost 20% had received explicit threats and 13% had been physically assaulted, with more men than women experiencing these levels of harassment.
  • Twenty percent of respondents had experienced discrimination related to their same sex relationship when accessing either the health care or the legal systems.
  • Harassment has not decreased over the past decade, and experiences of verbal abuse appear to be higher now than before. Levels of negative health care experiences also don't appear to have changed over the last decade.

Safety

  • Holding hands with your partner in public is a common and desired public display of affection.
  • 77.9% had felt unsafe holding hands in public, regardless of age, ethnicity or current relationship status.
  • Men were more likely to feel unsafe, probably due to the higher levels of physical violence that they experienced.
  • Respondents with higher education levels were also more likely to feel unsafe.
  • The simple act of not being able to hold hands, together with the lack of legal protection towards same sex relationships, tells a great deal about the distance we need to travel before those in same sex relationships can achieve equal citizenship in Victoria.

So, what is it that people in same-sex relationships want?

Relationship recognition

  • That, as an overriding principal, same sex domestic partnerships be recognised in law on an equal level with heterosexual partnerships.
  • That same sex partners have access to marriage at the Federal level.
  • That same sex couples living in domestic partnerships have access to a presumptive recognition of their relationship at the federal level, ensuring the same rights as heterosexual couples in domestic partnerships.
  • That, in the absence of marriage for same sex couples, federal law should allow civil unions and/or registered partnerships.
  • That Victoria's domestic partnership laws be expanded to include parenting rights and to remove all remaining instances of discrimination based on sexual orientation and marital status.
  • That, in the absence of federal laws, the State Government consider the operation of civil unions and/or registered partnerships, and that local governments consider registering relationships.

Parenting recognition

  • That the Victorian Law Reform Commission's recommendations including non-discriminatory access to assisted reproductive technology services, access to adoption, presumption of parenthood for non-birth parents, and retrospective recognition of existing parents be implemented by the Victorian Government as soon as possible.

Creating public safety

  • That the State Government and community leaders take every opportunity to publicly denounce statements that have the effect of vilifying or inciting violence against LGBTI people and against same sex couples and families.
  • That the Attorney General's Advisory Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues continue to pursue legislative and policy avenues to address vilification and violence against LGBTI people.
  • That anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia information be introduced into the Victorian school curriculum, into student and staff Codes of Conduct, and within policy requirements for establishing programs addressing bulling and harassment within Victorian Schools.

Health care

  • That Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria continue to educate health care providers to end discrimination against same sex couples and families within the health care system.

Legal system

  • That the Attorney General's Advisory Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues consider methods to audit and educate legal practitioners with regard to ending discrimination against same sex couples and families within the legal system.

Human rights

  • That a Human Rights Charter be implemented in Victoria, and that it should specifically provide protection for the human rights of LGBTI people, their relationships and their families. This would be a sign of leadership with the intent to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and reduce negative social attitudes.

 

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