Wednesday 14 June 2017

An Independent Campaign

Among the many on-going campaigns in the lgbt community is that of the recognition of same-sex marriage. It’s a campaign that is gradually being won nation by nation, territory by territory.

It is a campaign for same-sex marriage which gave birth to the world’s first “independent” lgbt nation, the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, on this very day in 2004.

More accurately it is designated a micro-nation, the name given to any region (specifically one with a very small land mass) which declares itself independent from the nation to which it formerly belonged. It establishes its own constitution and form of government. These micro-nations are not officially recognised by their former national governments or by international consensus. It seems that official recognition can only be legal if there is a formal diplomatic presence, such as an embassy, consul or government representative, from a foreign sovereign state in the micro-nation’s territory.

Various reasons are given for the founding of a micro-nation. Generally these reasons are political and revolve around a specific issue, such as that of same-sex marriage and the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands. But it is not unknown for someone to declare their bedroom independent and operate as an online nation and still be listed as a micro-nation. There’s even an international organisation of micro-nations.

The Gay and Lesbian Kingdom was founded in response to the Australian government’s Marriage Amendment Act introduced on 27th May 2004. This Act gave the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. The lgbt community in Australia campaigned hard to get politicians to vote against this definition. When it looked likely that their campaign would have no effect some members of the community decided on a more unusual method of campaign.

But it was not just about marriage rights. There was the wider concern of partnership rights generally. Hospital visiting, inheritance, adoption and other issues that depend on “next of kin” rights were denied to lgbt couples because their same-sex partnerships were not recognised by law. This included the rights of those who were legally married in other countries because their marriages were not recognised by the Australian government.

There is a part of the United Nations charter which states that any oppressed group of people who inhabit an external territory of a nation has the right to self-government and independence. What those activists decided to do was set up their own independent nation of gay inhabitants.

So how did these activists establish a new nation? First of all, international law requires an actual physical geographical location. With precedents established by previous Australian overseas territories such as Papua New Guinea, the activists chose the Coral Sea Islands Territory as their new nation. They then formed a Board of Administration and elected a leader, Dale Parker Anderson (b.1965). His own ancestral connection to the territory is explained here.

But it wasn’t Dale’s descent from English royalty that made him decide to become an emperor. It was because of an old Australian law which says that it is treason to stop a de facto prince from claiming his throne, in this case the Coral Sea Islands Territory. Emperor Dale had been democratically elected leader who had declared himself a sovereign prince with the title of emperor (as Napoleon Bonaparte had done several centuries earlier n France). If Emperor Dale had been a President of the Gay and Lesbian Republic of the Coral Sea Islands the Australian government could charge him and his citizens with treason.

When the Australian government seemed to dismiss their claims of independence the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom declared war on Australia on 13th September 2004.

The Coral Sea Islands are a number of small islands and coral reefs which cover over 780,000 square kilometres off the east coast of Australia. None of the islands were inhabited except for a weather station. The largest island, Cato Island, was chosen as the main settlement for the new inhabitants. It was on that island that the national flag, the Rainbow Pride flag was raised on 14th June 2004.

The following YouTube video gives a good all-round explanation of the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom.
In the years since his kingdom was established Emperor Dale has relinquished his duties as sovereign. Whether than means he has abdicated or not is debatable! The kingdom’s online presence remains. It has a Facebook page, and its website is part of the Equality Campaign, a continuing campaign for same-sex marriage conducted jointly by Australian Marriage Equality and Australians For Equality.

The question in my mind is what will happen when same-sex marriage is granted? Will the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands join Yugoslavia and Sikkim in the pages of history? Will it revoke its independence and declaration of war on Australia by hosting a huge celebratory party (in Brisbane, I hope, as there’s not really enough room on the islands themselves!)?

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