SENTHORUN RAJ

The federal election has been called and the message from both sides is a commitment to ‘a fair go for all Australians’. When it comes to election messaging, this slogan is quite clichéd, however, the ‘fair go’ sentiment is likely to carry significant voting currency in the upcoming Federal election.

Yet, for many in the gay and lesbian community, a ‘fair go’ remains a distant reality. So, with ongoing sexuality-based discrimination, is the ‘fair go’ ever going to be extended to all Australians?

Australia has approached protecting the rights of sexual minorities rather haphazardly over the past few decades. Each state and territory in Australia has established anti-discrimination laws which protect against some forms of sexuality discrimination.

However, legislative terminology is not consistent. It ranges from ‘sexuality’ or ‘sexual orientation’ in other Australian states to ‘homosexuality’ as it is defined in NSW. While terminology may seem a semantic point, the consequences of word choice are important. For a bisexual woman harassed and vilified in a NSW workplace for being a ‘confused lezzo’, the anti-discrimination protection of ‘homosexuality’ does not necessarily extend to bisexuals.

Equality before the law and the right to non-discrimination are well established principles in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Australia currently has federal legislation which protects against discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability and age. However, sexuality or gender identity is a problematic omission.

While the Australian Government’s broad rhetorical claims to improve the human rights culture seems promising, this rhetoric is not a substitute for concrete rights protection. Words will not serve the best interests of an elderly same-sex couple, forced to live separately in a nursing home because of their non-heterosexual relationship status.

With continued political and cultural dogma that promotes the idea that gay and lesbian individuals are ‘threatening’ to society, anti-discrimination legislation is not simply advantageous – it is essential. Introducing sexuality anti-discrimination legislation would send a strong social message that these forms of discrimination are not acceptable in any context.

So as Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard prepare to wage an electoral war over who can deliver the ‘fair go’ to the Australian public, the question remains – will either support tangible legislative protections against unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity?

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