The federal Government recently announced that it would not pursue a Human Rights Act.
While this came as disappointing news, the Government did promise to ‘harmonise’ existing anti-discrimination laws as part of its ‘human rights framework’. However, this ‘framework’ did not expressly mention sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Government announced that part of its ‘framework’ would include human rights education. While this is promising, any education must expressly include sexual orientation and gender identity to promote greater public awareness and acceptance of LGBT diversity.
Education, however, is not a substitute for rights protection. Introducing sexuality and gender identity anti-discrimination legislation would send a strong social message that these forms of discrimination are unacceptable.
Australia currently has federal legislation which protects against discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability and age. However, sexuality or gender identity remains a problematic omission.
While each state and territory currently has anti-discrimination laws which protect against some forms of sexuality or gender identity discrimination, the inconsistency in terminology, the wide-ranging exemptions (particularly for faith-based bodies) and the absence of comprehensive federal protections means there are many gaps in protecting the rights of individuals accessing health services, goods or services, aged care, employment and education.
To ensure a ‘fair go for all’, the federal Government must introduce legislation that protects people against unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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