Union wedded to marriage equality

Love was definitely in the air at Federation Council and the marriage equality march in Sydney on the weekend of 9-10 September as Federation members made a show of solidarity for the LGBTIQ community and their right to marriage equality.

Federation has advocated for the rights of members who identify as a member of the LGBTIQ community for decades.

The 1996 Annual Conference decision "Sexual Orientation and Gender Preferred Identity" states: “Discrimination and must be challenged and eliminated”.

A 2011 Annual Conference decision called on governments to "ensure their anti-discrimination laws cover all aspects of law relating to people of diverse sexuality and gender" including marriage. The decision also stated: "The discriminatory practices of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexism and monosexism are infringements of members’ rights, the rights of students we teach and the rights of individuals within the communities in which we work, and must be challenged and eliminated."

General Secretary John Dixon told August Council that Federation and its members aim to create a world safe for all young people, regardless of gender or sexual identity, where they are free to learn, grow and belong.

“We are, of course, in the middle of a process concerning marriage equality – a deeply flawed political process – but now the High Court has ruled the postal survey goes ahead, we must win for a fair and just Australia,” Mr Dixon said.

“Federation has posted about our support for marriage equality and some members have told us to stick to what we do, that it's not union business. They are clearly wrong, blinkered or misguided.

“The fact is, if we stayed quiet on this, we would be failing thousands of Federation members and public school students who are gay. We'd be failing every Federation member who has a gay son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandparent, cousin or friend who is currently not equal under Australian law.” Mr Dixon invited members to read President Maurie Mulheron’s regular column in the August edition of the journal where he states: “The stand we have taken, determined in our democratic decision-making forums, should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows our history.”

On the Sunday, hundreds of members marched under the Federation banner for a rally at Town Hall where Federation Project Officer Tim Blackman gave the welcome to country. “Friends, we are gathered here today with a very simple message of love and equality for our LGBTIQ community centred on a very simple 13-letter word: yaaasssssssss,” he said to the cheers of the thousands who had gathered. What a simple sentence 'Yes to Equality' is, and how easy it could be achieved for all movements of social justice. “To every young person out there, in our schools, rural communities, and all over, I am a part of a union of teachers who make it our core business to fight for your safety, your right to be who you are, and your right to be fabulous!”

Federation also commends the Department for acknowledging the risk to student wellbeing posed by the postal survey. Any teachers who experience or witness bias-based bullying are asked to contact Federation as per the email to members on 12 September.

For more information, go to the NSW anti-bullying website or the Wellbeing framework for schools.

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