Tasmania took a significant step towards equality last week with the state parliament’s passage of the Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2012, extending legal protections on the grounds of gender identity and intersex status for the first time.
Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks said the bill brought a number of welcome changes to the state’s anti-discrimination law.
“Protection from discrimination under the Tasmanian Act has now been extended to the grounds of gender identity and intersex,” Banks said, explaining the bill brings the state into line with the federal Sex Discrimination Amendment Bill passed earlier this year.
“The amendments also extend the existing protection from humiliating, intimidating, ridiculing, offending or insulting conduct to the grounds of race, age, disability, sexual orientation and lawful sexual conduct.”
The bill also changes the way complaints made under Tasmanian anti-discrimination law are handled, which Banks argues will benefit all parties involved in a complaint process.
Tasmanian transgender advocate Martine Delaney praised the amendments, highlighting the importance of specific protections for transgender and intersex people in anti-discrimination law.
“It’s a very welcome development. The Bill specifically identifies intersex and transgender persons, ensuring better protections for people who are among the Tasmanians most vulnerable to abuse and discrimination,” Delaney said.
Under the amended law religious schools can apply to the Commissioner for an exemption allowing them to preferentially admit a student of that school’s religion.
This approach to handling religious exemption has been welcomed by LGBTI advocacy groups.
“This legislation strikes the right balance of protecting people’s human rights and their free speech,” said Andrew Badcock from Tasmanians United for Marriage Equality.
“By passing this reform, Tasmania has strengthened its responsibility for a person’s right to protection from discrimination based on their sex, gender, and sexuality.”
This comes in stark contrast to the federal Sex Discrimination Amendment Bill, where only aged-care service providers are excluded from possible exemption to the law, allowing all other religious organisations to continue discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.