LGBTI advocates front anti-discrimination hearings
A public hearing in Sydney yesterday into the Federal Government’s proposed new anti-discrimination laws heard that it was of utmost importance to provide specific legal protections for intersex people as well as remove or significantly tighten exemptions allowed for religious organisations.
The Bill, while offering protections on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity for the first will also allow religious groups and services operated by faith-based operators to legally discriminate against LGBTI people, pregnant and single women, people in de facto relationships as well as adulterers.
Appearing in front of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee tasked with examining the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, representatives from both the NSW and Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights lobbies as well as Organisation Intersex International (OII) argued that the Bill was needed to provide consistency, clarity as well new protections to prevent discrimination towards LGBTI people.
“We commend the Government for developing this Bill and look forward to its passage through Parliament,” Justin Koonin, co-convener for the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, told the hearing.
Although commending the general aims of the Bill, Koonin added that while religious freedom was an important right in a democracy it went against all ideals of fairness and justice for the government to then support the use of that right to deprive others of their right to live free from discrimination.
“Over the past few weeks we have heard hundreds of stories, which we would be happy to share, of bullying, vilification, physical assault and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity - from teachers, café workers, patients seeking healthcare, school children and members of the Australian community accessing essential services funded by the government, often in organisations which would be exempt from the law under the current exposure draft,” he told the hearing.
“It is difficult to see how this kind of treatment can be justified by the rhetoric of avoiding injury to religious sensitivities.”
OII president Gina Wilson (pictured) told SX that despite an “over-focus” by some Senators on the possibility that gay teachers would “prosthelytize” if exemptions for religious schools were discontinued the hearing itself was largely positive.
“For intersex I was thrilled to hear some Senators speak from a place of substantial knowledge and engagement and think we may have helped some others along the path of greater understanding,” she said.
“I feel confident that the notion intersex is not an identity issue was clearly articulated and understood in the end.”
OII as well as the NSW and Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights lobbies have called for intersex to be given explicit protection, along the lines of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, which has already passed the Lower House in that state.
Late this week, the Inner City Legal Centre also gave its support for better protection for LGBTI people under any new anti-discrimination laws as well as the removal of broad exemptions for religious groups.
“Is it right that a Christian school be allowed to force out a unmarried teacher who is pregnant with her de facto partner?” the Centre’s director, Dan Stubbs, said.
Earlier this week, an Essential Media poll of over 1,800 people found that 52 per cent believed religious organisations should not be able to refuse employment to people who are capable of doing the job but do not abide by the organisation's religious principles.
- Tags: Blaze, Dan Stubbs, Discrimination, Essential Media, Federal Government, Gina Wilson, Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, Inner City Legal Centre, Intersex, Justin Koonin, Law, MCV, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Organisation Intersex International, Queensland Pride, Religion, Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, SX, Sydney, Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby