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Unformatted text preview: Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 38, No. 1, pp. 4562 Heteronormative Citizenship: The Howard Governments Views on Gay and Lesbian Issues C AROL J OHNSON University of Adelaide This article analyses recent federal debates regarding gay and lesbian issues, focusing on the Howard government, and drawing attention to the arguably heteronormative nature of many politicians views. Policy issues analysed include assisted reproductive technology, superannuation rights and censorship. Reference is also made to the Justice Kirby controversy. The article explores the way in which heteronormative arguments not only construct heterosexual citizens as the norm but are also used to discount arguments that discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens is taking place. This article analyses a number of recent debates in federal politics focusing mainly, although not exclusively, on views of the Howard government and of Coalition MPs who influence government policy. 1 It argues that those debates reveal the heteronormative assumptions underlying many politicians publicly expressed views on gay and lesbian issues. These views are heteronormative because they reveal that citizen identities, entitlements, rights and responsibilities are still often constructed in ways which privilege heterosexual relationships and assume them as the norm (see, for example, Carabine 1996). The concept of heteronormativity is a well-established analytical tool, derived originally from queer theory (Warner 1993; Jagose 1996) but only rarely utilised in political science. Indeed, the study of gay and lesbian political issues has tended to be neglected in political science (Blasius 2001; Phelan 1997), despite one of the first academic texts on gay liberation being written by an (Australian) political scientist (Altman 1971). A central argument of this article is that such neglect is unfortunate, not only because it downplays arguments regarding discrimination against gays and lesbians but also because heteronormative assumptions, which privilege conceptions of the citizen as hetero- sexual, influence a wide range of policy debates. Indeed, it is argued here that such Carol Johnson is an Associate Professor/Reader in Politics at the University of Adelaide. She served as 199899 President of the Australasian Political Studies Association. Her major research interests are in Australian politics, the politics of gender/sexuality and theories of ideology and discourse. This article draws on a larger project on heteronormative citizenship undertaken with the assistance of a University of Adelaide Small Research Grant. The author thanks Zoe Gill and Brigid Mahoney for research assistance, and this Journals anonymous referees for their comments....
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- Spring '08