A survey conducted by the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) has revealed where political parties stand on key policy issues affecting the LGBTI community, in the lead up to the November 24 election.

The survey aimed to clarify the parties’ positions on issues identified as priorities for the state’s LGBTI community in a recent report compiled by 30 community organisations including Thorne Harbour Health, Transgender Victoria, and Rainbow Families Victoria.

Issues outlined in the September report included family violence, education, HIV and health, gender diversity, and homelessness.

Following the release of the report, the VGLRL sent a survey to each political party calling on them to respond to each of the issues and to explain their party’s platform.

“This election is shaping up to be close, so it’s more important than ever that voters who care about LGBTI issues know not just where their candidate stands, but also the party policies, or lack thereof,” VGLRL Co-Convenor Dale Park said.

When it came to the current state government, the VGLRL said Labor committed to retaining and expanding key LGBTI programs such as the state’s first LGBTI multicultural grants program, but didn’t go far enough to end religious discrimination in public services.

Park said the party needed more work in areas of anti-discrimination laws for intersex, transgender, and bisexual communities.

“We welcome Labor’s indication it will continue its mantra that ‘equality is not negotiable’ and their commitment to remove exemptions from laws that would allow discrimination against LGBTI students, teachers, and staff if required,” he said.

“[But] given that faith leaders have said they will not use religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBT Victorians in critical health, homelessness, and mental health services, we are disappointed that Labor has not committed to remove these religious exemptions in areas other than schools.

“Continued exemptions to anti-discrimination laws on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity continue to send the wrong signal to the most vulnerable LGBTI Victorians.”

In the area of family violence, Labor highlighted its $5.3 million investment to support LGBTI people experiencing or at risk of family violence, in response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

The government also reaffirmed its support for the Safe Schools program, and committed to continue funding it within the Department of Education and Training.

The VGLRL said they were concerned by the responses to the survey provided by the Opposition (Liberal Nationals), given their silence on a vast majority of the issues put forward to them.

While the Coalition committed to investigating whether LGBTI services were available in outer metropolitan and regional areas, along with a $3.6 million funding boost for rapid HIV testing, the VGLRL’s Park said many of the key issues identified by the LGBTI community went unaddressed in their survey response.

“The silence by the Coalition to the community’s priorities is a deafening signal to voters in seats like Prahran and Albert Park,” he said.

“While we welcome the commitments they have made and are aware there may be more to come, it is vital the issues important to LGBTI communities are addressed.

“The Coalition’s silence to basic questions like whether it would retain its current Equality Minister sends a troubling signal that a Coalition government won’t maintain even existing support and funding for LGBTI Victorians.

“With pre-polling having already commenced and only a week to go until the election, we can only hope Matthew Guy will listen to the views of the LGBTI communities and make further LGBTI announcements soon.”

As part of their survey response, the Opposition said they would create a new statutory position to replace the current gender and sexuality commissioner, if elected.

The new commissioner would continue to focus on promoting LGBTI equality within Victoria’s public service but would have “an expanded ability to monitor issues, develop new policies, implement new initiatives, and measure progress”.

The survey responses from both the Greens and the Reason Party contained strong support for the LGBTI issues put forward to them.

While the crossbench mightn’t form government, if the state election is close, members of the crossbench may be critical in deciding who will form the next government.

“We thanks the crossbench responses for their ongoing support for LGBTI priorities surveyed and call on them to commit to including LGBTI equality in any negotiations around which party forms government,” Park said.

The Greens committed to investigate the possibility of establishing a Bisexual Expert Advisory Group to the state’s current LGBTI Task Force, building on existing trans and intersex groups to ensure the specific needs of bisexual people are met in government LGBTI campaigns.

They also highlighted their support for the removal of blanket anti-discrimination exemptions found in the Equal Opportunity Act that allow the exclusion of people of certain sex characteristics or gender identities from competitive sport.

The Reason Party highlighted that in recent surveys, mental health ranked as “the number one issue” concerning Victorians. To tackle this, the party said it would be supportive of increases in funding for mental health services, and affirmed that in many cases community-controlled mental health services are the most effective way to offer these services to the LGBTI community.

The party also listed the involuntary or coerced medical interventions being performed on young intersex bodies to erase their intersex traits as key priority, and states that the Reason Party would push whichever party won the state election to prohibit the procedures.

The VGLRL has compiled the complete individual party responses, and put together a report card ranking each party on each LGBTI issue. You can view all of these at: www.rainbowvotes.com.au

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