In 2004, a group of gay Australian protestors upset over their country’s refusal of same-sex marriage laid claim to a handful of small and mostly uninhabited islands off of the northeastern coast of Queensland, Australia. They named the islands the “Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands”, said that Australia owed them the islands as “territorial compensation” for the inequalities they faced without the legal privileges of marriage and then raised a rainbow flag as their country’s flag.
They then chose lead protestor Dale Anderson as their emperor and soon after, Anderson declared war on Australia even though his “kingdom” wasn’t recognized as a legitimate country and had no army to speak of. Officially, not a single shot has been fired in this “war”, but the Kingdom contends that every day gay and lesbian lives have been lost in ongoing battles due to homophobia, gay bashings and the institutional effects of denying legal rights to same-sex couples.
The reason this small weird part of history is important now is because an anti-gay Australian politician, Senator Eric Abetz, has cited the kingdom’s declaration of war as reasoning for why rainbow flags should not fly upon government buildings.
After hearing of a rainbow flag hanging in the halls of Australia’s Department of Finance, Abetz said (somewhat toungue-in-cheek), “This particular flag, you will realize, is the flag of the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands which declared war on Australia… of course it’s the flag of a hostile nation, if we are to believe them, having declared war on Australia.”
Abetz suggested that the Department of Finance also fly a flag for the Marriage Alliance, a national group opposing same-sex marriage, school anti-bullying programs and transgender rights. In the past, Abetz has called same-sex marriage “a gross injustice that would ‘steal from children,’ threaten Australian society and do ‘irreparable damage to the next generation.’” He has also made donations to an anti-Muslim group that conducts exorcisms and so-called “ex-gay therapy.”
Abetz comments also come on the heels of a campaign by the Australian Christian Lobby to ban the rainbow flag from public buildings.
In November 2016, a bill allowing Australians to vote on same-sex marriage was defeated in the Australian Senate. Opponents of the bill said that they preferred direct vote by the Australian Parliament rather than a “harmful debate against the gay and lesbian community.” Bill supporters accused the Senate of delaying marriage equality through needless political maneuvering.
Nevertheless, the Kingdom continues to run, selling commemorative stamps and inviting tourists to camp and dive along its shores. If you’re gay or lesbian, you’re immediately granted citizenship (presumably, that applies to bisexual and trans people as well), so you should probably start learning “Zadok the Priest,” the country’s national anthem. Here it is below:
(featured composite image via Jorge Freire)