A tri-partisan parliamentary group set up to deal with ‘forgotten’ GLBTI issues has been announced today.

In what’s being hailed as an Australian first, the Parliamentary Friendship Group for LGBTI Australians (PFLGBTIA) has been established by Coalition MP Warren Entsch, with the support of Labor MP Graham Perrett, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

In a statement today, Entsch, who will chair the group, said the move will offer GLBTI Australians a chance to have their issues heard.

“This is an important step in recognising the divide that exists between policy makers and the LGBTI community,” Entsch said.

“Social interaction with Members and Senators of the Federal Parliament will allow LGBTI Australians to raise issues, build awareness and to provide opportunities for these to be discussed and addressed at a legislative level.”

Over the years Entsch has proven an ally for the GLBT community. In 2007 he was one of five Liberal backbenchers to call for same-sex civil unions, writing to all Commonwealth parliamentarians asking for support to end discrimination based on sexuality.

More recently Entsch voted against a Greens motion calling on parliamentarians to canvass the views of their electorates about same-sex marriage, saying dealing with intersex and transgender issues is a more pressing concern.

In today’s statement, Entsch echoed his earlier calls saying the government needs to establish an appropriate response to requests for identity documents that correctly identified a person’s affirmed gender.
“These are issues that have needed addressing and impact negatively on peoples’ lives and are issues I will be strongly advocating for change,” he said.

Australian Coalition for Equality (ACE) spokeswoman Martine Delaney welcomed the move and said there had been progress in same-sex law reform, but very little action for transgender and intersex Australians.
“This forum will ensure that parliamentarians are very much aware of issues facing sex and/or gender diverse Australians,” Delaney said.

“It provides another way of getting issues on the table.”

ACE spokesman Corey Irlam welcomed the establishment of the group as a chance to deal with other issues such as federal anti-discrimination laws protecting GLBTI people.

“It’s a wonderful initiative that will ensure the diversity of the LGBTI community has a regular opportunity to discuss issues with our elected officials and for them to discuss issues amongst themselves,” Irlam said.

“We’re particularly pleased to see that all parties in the Parliament are represented solidly in the friendship group.”

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