Just.Equal welcome law reform but urge further action for ‘gold standard’

LGBTQIA+ advocacy group Just.Equal Australia have welcomed recommendations to update our state’s Equal Opportunity Act from the Law Reform Commission of WA.

The organisation have also raised concerns that the proposals do not go far enough, urging lawmakers to reach for the “gold standard”.

Just.Equal spokesperson Brian Greig highlights that Attorney-General John Quigley announced the review over five years ago, following ongoing advocacy from Just.Equal representatives Maxine Drake, Greig himself and other concerned community members.

The advocate and former senator notes that while the LRCWA report is positive, upgrades to these recommendations are needed.

“In some ways the recommendations are better than the Victorian legislation introduced last year, but in other ways they fall short of Tasmania’s anti-discrimination benchmarks set in 1998.” Greig says.

Greig welcomed the inclusion of gender identity and sex characteristics as protected attributes under the Anti-Discrimination Act, as well as the removal of exemptions allowing faith-based organisations to discriminate against LGBTIQA+ people.

“For too long trans folk and people who are intersex have been excluded from basic anti-discrimination protections, but this brings them into the fold,” Greig continues.

“However, this also draws attention to the urgent need to reform our highly-restrictive identity recognition laws. The WALRC has previously recommended change in this area but the government has not yet acted on it.”

Regarding religious exemptions, Greig hopes the McGowan Government will consult with the LGBTQIA community to ensure queer students and teachers are protected.

“Just.Equal will also be urging the government to further limit the general religious exception in Recommendation 77, potentially to only cover discrimination on the basis of religious conviction, and not other attributes,” Greig says.

“The WALRC recommendation is to allow faith run services that do not receive public funds to discriminate against LGBT people in employment and services.”

“Again, this is not ‘gold standard’ because this discrimination has been outlawed in Tasmania and WA should follow suit.”

Greig also welcomed the proposed creation of anti-vilification laws which would include sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.

“This was a particular request from Just.Equal’s submission, pointing out that WA only had anti-vilification protections for race, but not other attributes.”

“However, the recommendation does not go as far as the anti-bullying provisions in the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act.”

“As such, the WALRC recommendation is not ‘gold standard’, because it falls short of an existing interstate law that protects against conduct that ‘humiliates, intimates, insults or ridicules’ on the basis of race, sexual orientation, religion, gender identity and disability.

“Just.Equal will continue to press for a similar provision to be added in WA, lifting the bar to that set in Tasmania more than two decades ago.

Greig said that overall the recommendations looked promising but urged the McGowan Government, which has full control over the parliament, to do even better.

“It is apparent from the recommendations that the WALRC was influenced by quality submissions from Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, and I thank them for their expertise.

“We should also remember that these reforms are not a substitute for others, and that separately the government needs to address other areas of concern.

“These include banning LGBT conversion practices, fixing identification processes for trans people and banning non-consensual surgery on people who are intersex.”

OIP Staff

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