The ALP has promised to introduce legislation protecting the gay and lesbian community against discrimination, harassment and incitement to violence.

Shadow attorney-general Nicola Roxon said she would put the legislation forward in a private member’s bill, which should be tabled in parliament by May.

Our plan is to make sure the gaps in federal law, which don’t adequately protect against discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity, are fixed, she told Sydney Star Observer.

Roxon said it was a very reasonable demand that gay and lesbian rights activists had been making for some time.

Really our intention is to make clear that this is a longstanding commitment of Labor’s and we’re looking at ways we can put it into law, she said.

We’re sick of waiting until we’re in government to do it so we’re going to do what we can to bring about that change from opposition.

She believed the addition of incitement to violence legislation was important after hearing many reports of inappropriate and aggressive action against members of the gay and lesbian community.

Passing legislation that spells that out is another way of sending the message that it’s not acceptable behaviour in Australia, she said.

Asked whether the coalition was likely to support such a bill, Roxon said it would put to the test John Howard’s comments about supporting the removal of discrimination for same-sex couples last December.

David Scamell, co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, believed it was unlikely the bill would get through.

However, he welcomed the progressive view Labor had taken and said it was something activists had been calling for for a long time.

Since the race discrimination and sex discrimination legislation was brought in it’s been quite evident there needed to be legislation that dealt specifically with sexuality discrimination at a federal level, Scamell said.

Most states have legislation that prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexuality or homosexuality, but there is a need for federal laws that will fill the gaps, he said.

Federal laws would give gay and lesbian people recourse to take their cases to the federal court.

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