In a historic move last week, most countries in the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning violence and discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

This resolution, proposed by South Africa, is the first substantive motion of a UN body that specifically recognises the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. While a welcome step forward, the lack of intersex inclusion, and considerable opposition to the resolution, highlights there is still much progress to be made.

While this resolution was supported by Australia, such support remains at odds with Australian laws that continue to discriminate against sexual and gender minorities. For instance, there is still no comprehensive federal anti-discrimination legislation.

The Australian Government, as a signatory to several international human rights law treaties, has committed to ensuring equality and non-discrimination for all citizens. However, this remains to be fully realised.

Relationship recognition, for example, is characterised by inequality. The Marriage Act maintains a discriminatory definition that denies same-sex and gender diverse couples the same formal and symbolic rights afforded to heterosexual couples. Marriage is a civil institution, governed by secular laws, to which all people are entitled to access.

The Australian Government has, however, promised to harmonise anti-discrimination laws. While encouraging, the commitment must also ensure that such laws offer the highest level of protection.

In order to ensure that all Australians are entitled to substantive equality, anti-discrimination legislation must provide for education, appropriate remedies and consistent terminology. There must also be no exemptions or exceptions. This will ensure vulnerable people are always treated with respect, and are able to access appropriate services wherever they choose to go.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) is a strong advocate for these reforms.

We will host a series of consultation workshops in July, titled ‘Uncloseting Discrimination’, in order to better understand the complex and intersecting experiences of discrimination. This process will help facilitate policy dialogues that ensure any proposed legislation reflects the realities of people’s lives and experiences.

As part of Sydney Pride Festival, we are launching ‘Uncloseting Discrimination’ this Thursday, June 23, 7pm at Stonewall Hotel. Stonewall has also generously donated the night to help raise money for the work of the GLRL. If you are interested in attending, RSVP to s.raj@glrl.org.au All are welcome.

By SENTHORUN RAJ, NSW GLRL

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