[Update 29 June 2016: Responses received by midday today have been posted at the end of this post, generally in the order they were received. Further responses will be added if they are received by 5pm Thursday 30 June.]
I will be sending the below letter to all candidates contesting my local electorate (Sydney) and all parties vying for NSW Senate seats at the upcoming July 2 Federal Election (with candidates and tickets announced by the Australian Electoral Commission on Friday 10 June 2016).
Specifically, I am asking for their views on how the anti-discrimination laws that cover lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians can be improved. This includes the removal of religious exceptions, both generally and specifically in relation to education, the introduction of LGBTI anti-vilification protections, and the establishment of an LGBTI Discrimination Commissioner.
It also seeks their commitment not to introduce new ‘special rights’ to discriminate against LGBTI couples as part of any marriage equality legislation – because the recognition of equal love should not be undermined by including provisions supporting differential treatment.
As always, I will post any responses that I receive here. Please feel free to send similar letters to the candidates and parties contesting your electorate and Senate seats respectively.
LGBTI anti-discrimination & anti-vilification
I am writing to you in your capacity as a [candidate for my electorate of Sydney/party contesting the NSW Senate] at the July 2 Federal Election.
Specifically, I am writing to seek your commitments to help improve the current anti-discrimination and anti-vilification protections provided to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians.
While the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 was historic, introducing LGBTI anti-discrimination laws at Commonwealth level for the first time, the protection that it offers remains incomplete.
For example, the exceptions provided by sections 37 and 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (‘the Act’) to religious organisations and religious schools ensure that LGBTI people remain subject to discrimination across a wide range of areas of public life.
Unlike the laws prohibiting racial vilification in the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, there are also no protections against LGBTI vilification under Commonwealth law.
Nor does the Act establish a Commissioner with responsibility to address LGBTI Discrimination – whereas the Australian Human Rights Commission does have Commissioners for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice, Age Discrimination, Disability Discrimination, Race Discrimination, Sex Discrimination and a Children’s Commissioner.
For more on what I believe are the limitations of current Commonwealth LGBTI anti-discrimination law, please see “What’s wrong with the Sex Discrimination Act 1984?”
There is one final issue relating to LGBTI anti-discrimination law that is also likely to arise in the next term of Parliament – and that is the question of whether the legislation which, hopefully, introduces marriage equality in Australia will also include new ‘special rights’ for civil celebrants, and businesses that provide wedding-related services, to discriminate against LGBTI couples.
In my opinion, the law that finally recognises equal love in this country should not be undermined by provisions that allow for differential treatment (for more on this subject, please see “In the battle for marriage equality, we must not forget to fight against religious exceptions”).
I am seeking your views on the above issues – and would therefore appreciate your answers to the following five associated questions:
- Will you repeal sub-section 37(1)(d) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, which currently allows religious organisations to discriminate against LGBTI employees, and LGBTI people accessing services, in a wide range of areas of public life?
- Will you repeal section 38 of the Act that provides religious schools with the ability to discriminate against LGBTI teachers and students?
- Do you commit to introducing new laws to protect LGBTI Australians against vilification, on an equivalent basis to racial vilification laws?
- Will you establish a position of LGBTI Discrimination Commissioner within the Australian Human Rights Commission, with similar responsibilities to existing Commissioners covering the areas of Race, Sex, Disability and Age?
- Will you oppose the inclusion of new exceptions in any marriage equality legislation that would seek to provide civil celebrants, and businesses providing wedding-related services, with the ability to discriminate against LGBTI couples?
I look forward to receiving responses from you in advance of the July 2 Federal Election on these issues of concern to me, and to other lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians.
Responses from Candidates for the Seat of Sydney
Tula Tzoras – Online Direct Democracy
Peter Boyle – Socialist Alliance
Tanya Plibersek – Australian Labor Party
Responses from Candidates for the NSW Senate
Ross Fitzgerald – Australian Sex Party
Colin Broadbridge – Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)
Ingrid Ralph – Australian Cyclists Party
Jai Cooper – Australian Cyclists Party
Ken Canning – Socialist Alliance
Party Response – Socialist Alliance
Andrew Katelaris – Marijuana (HEMP) Party
Greg Frearson – Mature Australia
Ken Stevens – Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party
Ann Lawler – Citizens Electoral Council
Barry Keldoulis – The Arts Party
Stacey Dowson – Drug Law Reform
Janise Farrell – Voluntary Euthanasia Party
Darren McIntosh – Pirate Party Australia
Party Response – Australian Labor Party
Shayne Higson – Voluntary Euthanasia Party