On December 10, the High Court ruled on the appeal of Heather Osland against her 14-year sentence for killing her violent husband. In a 3-2 decision, the Court resolved that years of systematic, sadistic abuse were not enough to afford Heather, who feared for her life, the right to self-defence. This ruling, by an all-male majority, gives violent men another green light to continue criminal assaults on their partners.
A couple of weeks earlier, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission refused Greg Brown’s complaint of sexuality-based discrimination against the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme. Greg was claiming the full death benefits from his deceased partner’s contributions. But superannuation law does not recognise same-sex relationships. Family values are good for business, so the ruling will not tolerate equal opportunity.
Critical issues put on the centre stage. Heather Osland and Greg Brown fought for all us. They confronted the patriarchal family head on, rattling this inequitable and cruel bedrock of capitalist society. Their cases launched spirited campaigns which ignited the anger of women, queers and other working people serious about equality and justice – people determined to take on the system and challenge its laws.
The fight must go on. These cases show the limitations of capitalist law, which is based on the needs of business. This means defending the ideology of the nuclear family, needed by capitalism to reproduce the next generation of wage slaves. The laws define women as the subservient slaves of their spouses. It treats queers as criminals, or at best invisible. Equality for same-sex couples and legal protection of women who kill in self-defence are threats to this patriarchal dogma.
It’s time for a showdown. Let’s build on what Heather and Greg started – by organising both inside the courtroom and on the streets. Our lawmakers need to know that if they will not grant us justice, we will guarantee them no peace.