Major Jewish body gives support to proposed anti-discrimination laws
A major Jewish community organisation has given its support to proposed reforms to Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws while specifically singling out its backing for the inclusion of new protected grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) released a statement this week saying it had written to Attorney-General Nicola Roxon to express the organisation’s “general support” for the proposed changes to create nationally binding anti-discrimination protections.
“In doing so, I congratulated the government on the inclusion of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people as grounds for complaint,” ADC chairman Dr Dvir Abramovich said.
“To further clarify the ADC’s views, the Commission has always opposed any form of bigotry, prejudice or hatred and will continue to fight for individual liberty and freedom from discrimination for all Australians on various grounds, including sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”
Dr Abramovich (pictured) only took over as chair of the ADC in late November, replacing Anton Block.
He said the ADC, which was set up 33 years ago and whose council of advisors include former prime ministers Bob Hawke and John Howard, will also now turn its attentions to formulating an official position on the issue of marriage equality.
“Perhaps the most contentious and divisive of the ‘equal treatment’ issues in the Jewish and larger communities is same-sex marriage,” Dr Abramovich said.
“While the ADC’s new Board has no position on marriage equality at this time, its management team will determine its policy on this and various other issues in 2013.”
Michael Barnett, the convener of Aleph Melbourne, a support and advocacy group for GLBTIQ people of Jewish heritage, told SX that the statement by the ADC was pleasantly surprising as it was the first time that he could remember that a mainstream Jewish organisation in Australia had spontaneously given explicit support to GLBTIQ rights.
“I was overwhelmed and somewhat at a loss for words,” Barnett said.
“In over a decade of activism in the Melbourne Jewish Community there has not been a single time, to my recollection, that any mainstream organisation in this community has spontaneously issued a statement, of any nature, supporting an existence free of discrimination for GLBTIQ people.”
Barnett told SX the statement heralded the chance of closer dialogue within the Jewish and GLBTIQ communities about continuing discrimination and need for protection from it.
“That the ADC has explicitly mentioned marriage equality in their media release is significant, and more so that they are actually prepared to table a discussion including this important human rights issue,” he added.
“I sincerely hope that the ADC can separate the issues of civil and religious matters and appreciate that discrimination under Australian law on the grounds of relationship status and gender is still discrimination.”