The road to gay and lesbian equality took a jump forward last week as the country’s attorneys-general resolved to harmonise and improve anti-discrimination provisions and form a federal GLBT advisory committee.

A group of gay and lesbian rights advocates was invited to meet with the secretaries of 15 Commonwealth departments for the first time last week to discuss the implementation of the Rudd Government’s same-sex equality reforms.

Those involved hoped the meeting would evolve into a regular GLBT advisory committee of legal, health and community experts.

Wednesday’s meeting was a historic first step on the path to open two-way communication on issues faced by our community at a national level, Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam said.

We are hopeful this may be the start of regular, official liaison between our community and the Federal Government.

Such ongoing communication will be needed because the gathering last week was not privy to the details of the yet to be introduced omnibus bill covering the remaining areas of the 100 federal equality reforms. University of Melbourne Law School Associate Professor Miranda Stewart said it was difficult to provide detailed advice without seeing a draft of the legislation.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the country’s attorneys-general resolved to harmonise national, state and territory anti-discrimination laws. But expanding NSW’s strong protections against discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived homosexuality or transgender status to a federal level would not occur quickly.

The initial phase of the commitment will focus on non-legislative options to enhance complaint handling procedures. A longer-term review will consider substantial legislation changes that could remove exemptions that allow religious institutions to discriminate against the GLBT community.

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