Commonwealth Parliament finally passed same-sex marriage legislation in December 2017, prompting some (cisgender heterosexual) politicians to claim that it was ‘mission accomplished’ in terms of LGBTI rights in Australia. They couldn’t be more wrong.
This page looks at some of the many issues of LGBTI law and policy reform that remain unfinished – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians won’t be truly equal until these items of business are addressed. This includes, in no particular order of importance:
The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) does not treat LGBTI people equally. It offers no protections against adverse treatment or unfair dismissal on the basis of gender identity or sex characteristics (intersex status). And it includes special privileges allowing religious organisations to discriminate against lesbian, gay and bisexual employees.
Despite the passage of same-sex marriage, some states and territories retained forced trans divorce provisions in their statutes (where married trans people were required to divorce their partners before being able to access new, accurate identity documentation). At the end of 2018, Western Australia and Tasmania have failed to amend their laws.
The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 introduced Commonwealth LGBTI anti-discrimination protections for the first time. Five years later and some problems need to be fixed:
- Updating intersex status to ‘sex characteristics’
- Protecting LGBT students against discrimination
- Restricting religious exceptions more broadly
- Introducing protections against anti-LGBTI vilification, and
- Creating an LGBTI Commissioner within the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The process for trans and gender diverse people to access accurate identity documentation varies between the states and territories. These laws should be updated based on the following three principles:
- Access to amended identity documentation must not depend on surgery or other medical treatments
- Access to amended identity documentation must not depend on approval by doctors or other medical professionals, and
- Access to amended identity documentation should be granted on the basis of self-identification, through a statutory declaration.
Gay or trans conversion therapy is nothing less than psychological abuse, targeting the most vulnerable members of our community, especially children. As well as regulating the behaviour of psychologists, counsellors and other medical professionals who may be involved, the practice of ex-gay or ex-trans therapy should itself be criminalised, with additional penalties where the victims of these practices are minors.
One of the worst human rights abuses against the LGBTI community is the ongoing practice of involuntary medical interventions on children born with variations in sex characteristics. It must stop.
Despite the passage of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017, Australia does not have genuine marriage equality yet. That is not only because of forced trans divorce laws in Western Australia and Tasmania (see above), but also because of provisions which allowed existing civil celebrants to register to discriminate against LGBTI couples, and because of the insertion of religious exceptions into the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) itself. Both amendments need to be repealed.