Discrimination protections to widen

Mel Smith
Country Organiser

The Federal Government is moving to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and sex and gender diverse people under Commonwealth law.

As reported previously in Education, there is currently little protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity at a federal level. As a result proposed new protections were included in the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, which was released in November 2012.

The Bill aims to make the system of federal anti-discrimination laws clearer and more effective. However, this process will take time and has already included a submission process to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee on the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill.

As a result of these submissions, the committee recognised the pressing need for protection from discrimination for the gay, lesbian,bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) communities.

Consequently the Attorney- General has introduced amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 via the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013, to pro- vide new protections against dis- crimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status; and to provide protection against discrimination for same-sex de facto couples.

This Bill serves as a first step in providing federal protections to GLBTI people while the Government considers the content and form of the consolidation of the Commonwealth anti-discrimination Acts.

Specifically the changes include the insertion of definitions for “sexual orientation”, “gender identity” and “intersex status”; a separate ground of discrimination on the basis of intersex status and amending the term “marital status” to “marital or relationship status” to provide protection from discrimination for same-sex de facto couples.

The amendments will provide that discrimination on the new grounds is unlawful in the same areas of life as for other grounds already covered by theSex Discrimination Act. These include areas of work and education. The Bill also amends existing exemptions to reflect the new grounds. This includes exemptions that are in place for religious bodies in relation to employment and the provision of education.