Gillian Triggs
Gillian Triggs

Sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex amendments are a step closer to full equality

Last night the Sex Discrimination (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 was passed by the House of Representatives.

The new legislation, which is likely to come into effect from 1 August 2013, will provide LGBTI people and their families with protection from some forms of discrimination and harassment.

The passing of amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act yesterday means there are new legal protections under federal law and new grounds on which gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people can lodge a complaint.

In practical terms, LGBTI people are now, for the first time, protected under federal laws in relation to:

  • Employment – getting a job, terms and conditions of a job, training, promotion, being dismissed
  • Education – enrolling or studying in a course at a private or public school, college or university
  • Accommodation – renting or buying a house or unit
  • Getting or using services – such as banking and insurance services, services provided by government departments, transport or telecommunication services, professional services like those provided by lawyers, doctors or tradespeople, services provided by restaurants, shops or entertainment venues.

The legislation maintains exemptions for religious organisations but protects consumers of government-funded aged care services regardless of the provider.

Australian Human Rights Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs, said the passage of the Sex Discrimination (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013 was a significant milestone for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

“Protections from discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Act have now been extended to grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status,” Professor Triggs said. “The existing ground of ‘marital status’ has also been extended to ‘marital or relationship status’, effectively providing protection from discrimination for same-sex de facto couples.”

These changes mean the Commission will now be able to accept, investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination on these grounds.

The amendments which passed yesterday have also qualified the existing exemption in the Act for religious organisations that provide Commonwealth-funded aged care services.

Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan said, “This change means that older gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people will no longer have to worry about experiencing discrimination when seeking to enter Commonwealth-funded aged care, regardless of the religious beliefs of the service provider.”

Commissioner Ryan said this was a very reassuring change.

“The passage of the Bill is a significant statement from our Parliament to the people of Australia that this type of discrimination is not acceptable in our society,” Professor Triggs said.

Professor Triggs said the Commission is now looking forward to engaging with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals and organisations, as well as the business sector, to provide guidance on the rights and obligations provided by these new amendments.

The Commission has long advocated for federal protections from discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, including through its consultation report, Addressing sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity discrimination, released in 2011.