The call for a rights charter dominated the final public hearings of the National Human Rights Consultation, but even the less-publicised proposals presented a step forward for gay and lesbian equality.
The consultation committee, headed by Father Frank Brennan, was granted another extension as the last consultation hearings wrapped up last week. A report is now due by 30 September and the government is not expected to respond before the next election.
Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam and Australia Marriage Equality convenor Rodney Croome joined a tightly balanced speakers list of lawyers, politicians and senior public officials during debates that ran for three days in Parliament’s Great Hall.
Irlam spoke of growing public support for GLBTI anti-discrimination laws and equality, but legislation to provide that protection had been held up since the mid-1990s.
-œState laws don’t cover the federal government. Existing human rights instruments have gaps in them. Politicians have a lot of sympathy but for the last 14 year there hasn’t been the political will to take action, he said.
A lot of people retained harmful beliefs about gay people, he said, and bigotry that needed challenging.
Croome spoke about marriage equality during a -œhot button issues session joining Anglican South Sydney Bishop Robert Forsyth who argued for religious rights to discriminate in churches and schools.
While support for a Human Rights Act was strong among the audience, there was considerable opposition from politicians and legal experts.
The chief alternative was a proposal by former justice minister Michael Tate who argued parliamentary committees should play a stronger role in adjudicating human rights inconsistencies in federal law.