Liberal MPs Wants LGBT Retirees to Go Elsewhere

Pictured: Peter Abetz

Pictured: Peter Abetz

Senator Louise Pratt has spoken out against three State Liberal MPs – who have made a submission to retain religious exemption in the Anti-Discrimination Act – this would allow the discrimination of LGBT people in Aged Care.

Member for Mount Lawley, Michael Sutherland; Member for Southern River, Peter Abetz; and Member for the South Metropolitan Region, Hon Nick Goiran supported the provisions, allowing for discrimination in the Aged Care sector through religious exemptions to continue.

This means that in the Aged Care sector, religious Aged Care institutions can still turn away elderly retirees for being lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender.

Abetz spoke to OUTinPerth regarding the submission and stated that elderly LGBT people “can go to another aged care facility” rather than one run by a Christian institution.

“They claim to be Christians but they do not uphold the values that this group has established this facility. [Christians] established it because they want a facility where people can live according to the values that they espouse, so to force a community to take somebody in contrary to their moral conviction, is discriminating against the Christian community.”

When asked if gay Christians uphold Christian values Mr Abetz stated “on that particular aspect of their sexuality, they certainly don’t.”

Further emphasising that religious institutions should be allowed to discriminate, Abetz said “… to force that community to have to take in people which violates their standards, I think it’s totally unacceptable”.

With the Gillard Government expressing support for sensitivity around the older LGBT community, Louise Pratt emphasised the detriment that religious exemptions could have:

“These three MPs are privileging religion over and above the rights of vulnerable lesbian, gay and transgender Australians who need aged care. I am not happy that these are the values that these MPs are putting forward not only in the State Parliament –are also seeking to push their influence into the Federal Parliamentary Agenda.”

Senator Pratt also pointed out that Aged Care services (religious or not) are subsidised by taxpayers’ money, “in many instances the only service available in a local area or town is affiliated to a religious organisation. It is not reasonable that these services should be able to discriminate against lesbian, gay and transgender people”.

When asked by OUTinPerth if people can be both religious and gay, Abetz retorted “if there’s people who claim to be Hindu, Buddhist, whatever, and gay and lesbian, then by all means let them set up a Buddhist gay and lesbian Aged Care facility if that’s what they want”.

Associate Professor Mark Hughes explained the damaging effect that religious exemptions have on the elderly LGBT community “I have had relayed to me stories of discrimination including physical abuse by residential care staff, hospital staff failing to involve same sex partners in decision making and counsellors and social workers making inappropriate assumptions about peoples lifestyles”.

Chairperson for the Gay Retirement Association Inc. Dr Jude Comfort supported Hughes in stating that current discrimination exists in the area:

“We have anecdotal evidence that this is existing, for older people as they enter an aged care facility it’s a very vulnerable moment in their life. What we know happens is that many people belonging to a marginalised group, they do go back in the closet… they’re not sure what the repercussions are going to be.”

The primary aim of changes to the Act was to streamline the often confusing, complex and overlapping Anti-Discrimination laws that had been established over decades.

One of the main reforms proposed in the Bill included new protections surrounding sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex people. Although initially religious exemptions (that would allow discrimination) were to remain in the Act, overwhelming public opinion showed that this should be removed. This was a recommendation included in the Senate Committee’s final report.

Nadine Walker

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