Tuesday, 11 March 2008

HREOC urges government to “go further” to combat gay and lesbian discrimination

Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Graeme Innes, has written to the federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, encouraging the Government to change more federal laws that discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender people and to take strong steps to change associated discriminatory behaviour in our society.

“The focus of our Same Sex: Same Entitlements report last year was on financial and work-related legislation that discriminates against same-sex couples and their children,” said Commissioner Innes.

“We identified 58 discriminatory laws in the report, but as the Attorney-General is reported to have said, there are many other pieces of federal legislation covering other areas of life in Australia that also discriminate against people who are gay, lesbian and transgender.”

In his letter, Commissioner Innes urged the government to change all such laws.

“Removing discrimination from all legislation - not just the 58 financial and work-related laws we identified - will be a much welcomed measure, but it is equally important that, as a society, we take steps to change discriminatory behaviour,” said Mr Innes.

“We encourage the government to play a leading role in stamping out discriminatory behaviour.”

Mr Innes said that sexuality discrimination legislation would be an initiative that, if introduced by the federal government, would provide strong benchmarks and guidelines to the community about behaviour that is discriminatory toward gay and lesbian people.

Mr Innes said that he spoke to many people before and after taking part in the 30th Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney on the weekend and the same questions were asked over and over again: When will the discrimination be removed from the 58 laws and when will all discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people be addressed?

“The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) is not asking for any special treatment for people who are gay and lesbian”, Mr Innes said. “We are merely drawing attention to the fact that all Australians should be able to enjoy the same human rights in the same way, and while these people cannot, we are endorsing and supporting discrimination.”

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