Intersex people will be protected from legal discrimination and elderly LGBTI people will be assured of places in religious nursing homes under wide-ranging anti-discrimination laws set to pass federal Parliament.
The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013 passed through the House of Representatives on Friday, complementing existing legislation in several states and expanding protections from discrimination to include “sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status”.
The bill is the first of its kind in the world to ban discrimination based on someone’s intersex status, a feat Organisation Intersex International Australia (OIIA) President Gina Wilson described as “absolutely marvellous”.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC said the reforms were “long overdue” and that he was “delighted” to be bringing them forward.
“The absence of these protections at the federal level means that many members of the LGBTI community have been victims of discrimination when accessing accommodation, healthcare, and everyday consumer services,” Dreyfus said.
He also announced the government would introduce amendments in the Senate that will stop religious aged-care facilities from legally discriminating against LGBTI people in nursing homes and employment.
As the legislation currently stands religious bodies are largely exempt from anti-discrimination provisions, enabling them to discriminate in hiring practices and services provided by entities they run, such as charities and private schools.
Under proposed amendments to the bill released by the Attorney-General’s office, however, those exemptions would not apply to “accommodation provided by a religious body” that provides Commonwealth-funded aged care, or to “the employment of persons to provide that aged care”, effectively banning religion-based aged care facilities from refusing to admit elderly LGBTI people or hiring LGBTI aged care workers.
Minister for Ageing Mark Butler said it was “not appropriate” for aged-care providers to discriminate in their care for the elderly “when such services are provided with taxpayer dollars”.
“While most aged care service providers are accepting of residents regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, we think there should be legal protection that ensures such discrimination cannot occur,” Butler said.
While the amendments mean the bill must go back to the House of Representatives for a second vote, it is likely the government will push for the bill to be passed completely before the federal election in September.