The Australian Defence Force (ADF) took part in this year’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on Saturday night in Sydney. In the ‘Sunday Herald Sun’, columnist Miranda Devine attacked the move, (‘There is no pride in forcing soldiers to shoulder party politics’, pp. 54 – 55, 5 March, 2017). Devine argued that it went against their policy. To make matters worse, the soldiers had lapel pin modified with the rainbow flag placed on it. This, she argued was in breach of Section 83 of the Defence Act 1903. Instructions on how Rising Sun emblem is to be used and displayed is explained here.
Some servicemen are angered at the altering of the badge. Former Vietnam War serviceman, Charlie Lynn is one of them:
That’s the biggest insult I have ever seen to a badge that means so much to both serving and retired veterans. It wasn’t designed to be a catalyst for social change. It’s a symbol of what we fought for, for freedom.
What’s more, servicemen and women are not allowed to attend partisan political events while in uniform. Some have defended the Mardi Gras participation as attending a ‘cultural’ event, rather than a political one. Anyone who tries to argue that the Mardi Gras is not political has rocks in their head. The whole point about the Mardi Gras is to fight for rights for LGBTQ people. For the last few years, same – sex marriage has been the hot – button issue, with countless floats displaying the issue. Many proponents of same – sex marriage, along with Labor and the Greens, want a vote in parliamentvto decide on whether or not to amend the Marriage Act, rather than have a public vote. What’s fanned flames evwn more is that servicemen have been sacked for promoting a party (Andrew Hastie as he campaigned for candidacy for Western Australia’s Liberal Party). Another servicemen, Bernie Gaynor was allegedky prohibited from attending a pro – life rally due to its political nature. It should be one rule for all. Either servicemen and women can attend political events while in uniform or they can’t. This does nothing to boost the ADF’s morale in my opinion. It only gives LGBTQ+ rights activists a bad name, too.
I have heard and read how the ADF should not take part in partisan politics. I agree. They fight for the freedom of all Australians, including those who don’t agree with same – sex marriage. If members wanted to participate in the parade, they could have without wearing the uniform. On their own accord. If a serviceman/ woman wants to attend a pro – life rally out of uniform, same thing. They should be able to go ahead. Or, all serving or past veterans should be able to wear their uniforms without any consequences at any political event. The way the ADF has handled this is nothing short of hypocritical.
Secondly, about the LGBTQ+ community – I keep saying this, we are not going to win hearts and minds doing what we’re doing. Major institutions like the ADF pressuring servicemen and women to attend the Mardi Gras and breaking their own protocol does not help the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, it just riles up the critics. For those who do support the LGBTQ+ community, thank you. For those who love and support LGBTQ+ family and friends, you are awesome. Please keep up what your doing. If ADF wants to make LGBTQ+ vets more welcome, that’s awesome. But PLEASE DON’T use the fight for our rights to tear your organisation apart. If it’s against your protocol to attend a political event in uniform, then, don’t pressure others to do exactly that. It doesn’t do anyone any good.
I think it’s time we step back, take a breath and start to build bridges rather than holding people captive because of what they believe. Also, again, an organisations stendards and protocols should not be compromised. Otherwise, the LGBTQ+ community will end up fighting a losing battle of our own.