Improved protections for Sex Discrimination Act welcomed by leading human rights organisation

Long overdue legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people should be incorporated into Australia’s Sex Discrimination Act immediately, the Human Rights Law Centre has said in a submission today to the Senate’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee currently examining the Government’s proposed amendments.

The HRLC’s Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, said many Australians would be surprised to learn that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians are not currently protected against discrimination under federal anti-discrimination laws.

“This is an obvious gap in Australia’s patchwork of anti-discrimination laws. The proposed Bill to amend the Sex Discrimination Act is long overdue, but a welcome step in the right direction,” Mr de Kretser said.

The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013 will, if passed, extend protection under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) to ‘gender identity’, ‘sexual orientation’, ‘intersex status’ and ‘relationship status’.

The HRLC’s submission calls for political parties to support the swift passage of the Bill subject to amendments that would enhance the Bill’s compliance with Australia’s international human rights obligations.

However, Mr de Kretser said the Bill’s broad exemptions for religious organisations were unjustified and contrary to Australia´s obligations under international human rights law.

“Whilst the Bill will deliver improvements, it does need amendment because as it currently stands it would permit religious organisations to discriminate against LGBTI Australians. For example, religious schools could expel a same-sex attracted student or aged-care facilities, even Government funded ones, could refuse to admit same-sex couples. We need to strike a better balance between freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination,” Mr de Kretser said.

“LGBTI Australians continue to suffer significant levels of discrimination and vilification in Australian society due to long held prejudices. The HRLC welcomes the advances that this Bill contains, but a lot of work still lies ahead to achieve true equality for the LGBTI community in Australian law,” Mr de Kretser said.

The Bill was introduced after the Government shelved its Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill which would have consolidated federal anti-discrimination legislation — a decision met with extreme disappointment from the HRLC and other rights organisations.

A copy of the HRLC's submission is available here.

For further information or comments, please contact: Hugh de Kretser on 0403 965 340 or