with Justin Koonin
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
A wishlist for 2013 As 2013 kicks into gear, the GLRL is hard at work on several fronts, working to achieve much-needed and overdue reforms for our community.
The draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 released by the Federal Government late last year is currently under a process of review. Written submissions to the Senate Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Bill are now online, and can be found here. The GLRL submission is number 387.
On January 24 we will appear before a public hearing of the inquiry alongside our partners at the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and Oii Australia. We have written to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to urge her to support the Bill and help ensure that the rights of LGBTI people are protected. Unsurprisingly there has been concerted opposition to the Bill, which if passed will see sexual orientation and gender identity protected for the first time at a federal level. Much of this opposition comes from religious groups who fear that their right to practise their religion as they choose will be affected.
While we recognise and value freedom of religion as important in a democratic society, we cannot allow this freedom to compromise the freedoms of others – particularly those who are vulnerable.
As the Bill stands, religious groups will be largely exempt from anti-discrimination law. We welcome the proposed exclusion to religious exemptions in the provision of Commonwealth-funded aged care services, and will argue for an extension to the scope of these exclusions in the areas of health, social services and education.
We will also recommend that where such exemptions are relied upon, the reliance should be transparent and the reasons for the reliance made publicly available. What will convince members of Parliament to support the Bill more than anything is personal stories about how discrimination affects people. We are working with our partners at All Out to collect as many of these stories as possible.
If you have one you would like to share, we would love to hear it. You can submit your story here.
Yet it is not just at a federal level that change is afoot. Recently a cross-party group of members of Parliament launched NSW Marriage Equality, in an attempt to have same-sex marriage laws pass through NSW Parliament. While reform at a federal level is the undisputed goal of the marriage equality movement, the passage of a law along same-sex couples to marry somewhere in Australia would be a significant
step forward, and we are working closely with our colleagues at Australian Marriage Equality and elsewhere to make this happen.
We are fortunate in this state to have a group of people willing to look beyond party lines and work
together for our community. With a report from the Legislative Council Select Committee Inquiry into the partial defence of provocation due in the early months of 2013 as well, we hope that 2013 will see the end of the notorious “gay panic” defence in NSW as well.
This year is the 25th anniversary of the GLRL. We hope it will be one to celebrate!