Barriers to federal anti-discrimination laws covering sexual orientation are now so few the Rudd Government could pass such laws in the current term, with key Opposition members already offering their support.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland was asked to press ahead with the reforms — a Labor commitment since 2004 — at the recent forum for human rights non-government organisations.
Adding weight to the call was the Shadow Attorney-General, Liberal senator George Brandis.
“Senator Brandis has always believed that sexual orientation should be included in discrimination laws,” his spokesman told Southern Star.
Conservative bishops, like Anglican Bishop of South Sydney Robert Forsyth, have also stated they do not oppose including sexual orientation in anti-discrimination laws nor will they demand blanket religious exemptions for anti-gay discrimination.
“I don’t support an exemption for [sexual] orientation as a grounds for discrimination,” Rt Rev Forsyth told the Star after the final hearings for the National Human Rights Consultation.
It is understood McClelland is waiting for the results of the Consultation before deciding between two ways forward: another anti-discrimination act, along the lines of the race, sex, age and disability acts, or combining all the laws into a single equality act sometime after 2011.
Neither solution received any vocal opposition during the Consultation hearings. An equality act is the preferred option for the Australian Human Rights Commission and for many within Labor circles — the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee made such a recommendation last December.
Whether Senator Brandis and Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull could convince their side to agree to include gender identity is untested, despite acceptance that sexual orientation should be. The Coalition is yet to take a formal position on the Senate committee’s proposed equality act.
But lobbyists told Southern Star the inclusion of sexual orientation could pass the current Senate with enough support from the Coalition, if the Rudd Government would simply act on the Labor commitment.

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