Anti-Discrimination – A Holy Cop-Out

Some barriers to equality remain in anti-discrimination proposals

Well, the government’s plan for anti-discrimination law overhaul is finally here, and as expected, it includes sexual orientation and gender identity as new ‘protected attributes’. So far so good.

It also specifically forbids religious-run aged-care homes from discriminating against same-sex couples. Also good. But – bizarrely – it allows those same homes to continue to discriminate against us when it comes to hiring staff.

The proposals also forbid religious bodies to discriminate against us in the provision of services – another tick – while allowing them to refuse to hire us to work in the businesses providing those services, such as hospitals, schools, and employment services.

So we could end up with elderly gay residents but no gay staff to care for them, gay job-seekers but no gay staff to assist them, gay patients in hospitals but no gay doctors or nurses to treat them, gay kids in schools with no gay teachers. This is just plain silly. Not to mention offensive.

I’m not suggesting that heterosexuals can’t do the job adequately, but surely these organisations would fulfil their obligation to provide inclusive services far better if they had colleagues who could empathise with clients needs and wants, and had some understanding of their lives?

Gregory Storer has already written of the problems with allowing religions to discriminate in training and ordaining their celebrants – ministers, brothers, monks, nuns. I’m less concerned about that, though it is open to the same objections. How can they minister adequately to their LGBT members if there’s none on the staff?

These ‘religious’ exemptions simply aren’t logical, or sensible – or even good business! Hopefully we can get them cleaned up during the consultation period – for their sake as well as ours.

There is an even bigger problem with the proposals. There’s no mention of intersex. Anywhere. Filling this glaring gap has to be our first priority.

I leave it to others to cover the detail, though I do note that business and the opposition are, well, opposing, a sure sign that the proposals actually do have merit.

Here are some links to more general coverage.



About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)