LGBTQIA+ advocacy group Just.Equal Australia has welcomed recommendations to update our state’s Equal Opportunity Act from the WA Law Reform Commission.
The organization has also expressed concern that the proposals do not go far enough, urging lawmakers to seek the “gold standard”.
Just.Equal spokesperson Brian Greig notes that Attorney General John Quigley announced the review more than five years ago, after continued advocacy by Just.Equal representatives Maxine Drake, Greig himself and other members of the concerned community.
The attorney and former senator notes that while the LRCWA report is positive, updates to these recommendations are needed.
“In some ways the recommendations are better than the Victorian legislation introduced last year, but in others 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 that allow religious organizations to discriminate against LGBTIQA+ people.
“For too long, trans and intersex people have been excluded from basic anti-discrimination protections, but this brings them back 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 a change in this area, but the government has yet to act on it.”
Regarding religious exemptions, Greig hopes the McGowan government will consult with the LGBTQIA community to ensure that gay students and teachers are protected.
“Just.Equal will also urge the government to further limit the general religious exception in Recommendation 77, potentially to cover only discrimination based on religious conviction, and not other attributes,” says Greig.
“WALRC’s recommendation is to allow non-publicly funded faith-run services to discriminate against LGBT people in employment and services.”
“Again, this is not the ‘gold standard’ because this discrimination has been banned in Tasmania and WA should do the same.”
Greig also welcomed the proposed creation of anti-defamation laws that would cover sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.
“This was a particular request from the Just.Equal filing, noting that WA only had defamation protections for race, but no other attributes.”
“However, the recommendation does not go as far as the anti-harassment provisions of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act.”
“As such, the WALRC recommendation is not the ‘gold standard,’ because it does not comply with an existing interstate law that protects against conduct that ‘humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules’ on the basis of race, sexual orientation, religion, identity gender and disability
“Just.Equal will continue to push for a similar provision to be added in WA, raising the bar on what was established in Tasmania more than two decades ago.
Greig said overall the recommendations looked promising but urged the McGowan government, which has full control over parliament, to do even better.
“It is clear from the recommendations that WALRC was influenced by quality submissions from Australian human rights lawyers, and I thank them for their expertise.
“We must also remember that these reforms are not a substitute for others and that separately the government must address other areas of concern.
“These include banning LGBT conversion practices, correcting identification processes for trans people, and banning non-consensual surgery on intersex people.”