SOUTH Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has formally apologised to the LGBTI community in parliament for past legislative injustices, saying he hopes LGBTI youth have a safer future.
The move comes in light of a number of bills currently being debated in the upper house that, if passed, will advance equality for sexual and gender diverse people around the state.
In his apology, Weatherill said that discriminating against a particular group of people in law sends the wrong message.
“When our laws discriminate against a particular group of people, it sends a message that this prejudice written into law justifies treating people differently in our day to day lives,” he said.
“Such laws don’t affect only LGBTI communities, they diminish our society as a whole.
“They diminish us by saying effectively there are certain people who deserve to be treated differently – whose relationships are worth less, whose families should not exist, and who are not entitled to the same fundamental rights as their neighbour.”
Weatherill added that many South Australians, both within and outside of the LGBTI community, had written to him to express their support for the various law reforms underway.
“We should be building a safer, fairer future for the next generation of children, so they never have to experience the kind of fear and harm that was a reality for people who grew up when homosexuality was a crime,” he said.
“We should ensure that our laws apply equally regardless of who you fall in love with, who your family is, or the gender you live as.
“Today as Premier and as a member of parliament, I formally say sorry to all of you who have suffered injustices and indignities simply because of who you are.”
Members of the LGBTI community and their families gathered at parliament to hear the apology, including trans woman Zoey Campbell who applauded the apology.
“This apology will help start to heal a lifetime of being criminalised, medicalised, and stigmatised, and helps me start to feel accepted and valued by the community I live in,” she said.
“We have a long way to go, but the Premier’s words are an historic step towards acceptance and help pave the way towards true equality.”
Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, Anna Brown, said the speech helped to recognise the harm done by the past discriminatory laws.
“This apology is a powerful symbolic act that helps to repair the harm caused by these unjust laws and affirms the dignity and value of LGBTI people and their families,” she said.
“Taken together, these legislative reforms represent an enormous step forward for LGBTI equality in South Australia, and will make important practical differences to the lives of many people.”
More information about the reforms taking place in South Australia can be found here.