There is to be no debate on Adam Bandts Marriage Equality Bill before the current parliament breathes its last.
This is probably a good thing. It was never going to get up: the time will be better spent on other matters. So what else might be salvaged before the hulk of this messy, fractious government is hauled up onto the sands and dismantled?
There’s the Sex Discrimination Bill, the last poor tattered remnant of the grand overhaul of anti-discrimination law. Given that Gillard & Co are now in a last desperate dash to get stuff on the books before they leave, it can only survive if it can pass without causing too much fuss.
The Bill, which will make it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status, passed the House of Representatives today, and now goes to the Senate. See media release below.
It could possibly get through as it stands, adding sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex to the list of protected attributes. But the opposition will cause a ruckus if there’s any tampering with the ‘religious exemptions’ – better called ‘special religious privileges’. Attorney Genberal Mark Dreyfus will move an amendment in the Senate to remove from religious-affiliated aged care services their right to discriminate against LGBTIQ seniors.
Fingers crossed. If that fails, something may be salvaged via Mark Butlers reforms to aged care. Will it amount to anything useful, assuming it doesn’t get traded away to get the rest through?
Recognition of overseas same-sex marriages? Why would Gillard hand a win to the Greens? And how on earth would she square it with her already ridiculous and discredited position on same-sex marriage at home?
At this stage most people see little if any choice between an opposition that offers nothing, and a government that promises little, and delivers less. In the last analysis, to both sides, we are disposable. Gay Laborites can only plead “Abbott would be worse”, which, while true, does not help. Cold comfort indeed.
A bleak assessment? Yes. In place of a union boss manipulating the government of behalf of his masters in the Vatican, the Vatican will soon have their own man in the Lodge. Many of those who would stand up for LGBTI against the church will lose their seats. In the face of the implacable enmity of the church towards LGBTI equality, it’s going to be a long hard road.
Winter is coming. And the larder is bare.
THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
Minister for Emergency Management
Special Minister of State
Minister for the Public Service and Integrity
THE HON MARK BUTLER MP
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing
Minister for Housing and Homelessness
Minister for Social Inclusion
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform
30 May 2013
NEW PROTECTIONS FOR SEXual orientation, gender identity and intersex PEOPLE pass the house
The Gillard Government is moving to better protect Australians from discrimination, through legislation passed by the House of Representatives today.
The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill will make it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.
“These new protections are long overdue and I’m delighted we are bringing them one step closer,” Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC said.
“The absence of these protections at the Federal level means that many members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community have been victims of discrimination when accessing accommodation, healthcare, and everyday consumer services.
“The Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs has tabled its report and urged passage of the Bill this parliamentary term.”
The Attorney-General also announced the Government would look to move amendments to the Bill in the Senate to insert a qualification on the exemption for religious organisations for the provision of Commonwealth-funded aged care services.
This amendment would reflect the views of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which found “it is fundamentally important that all older Australians maintain the right to access aged care services on an equal basis.”
The Committee noted that “in some areas of Australia there is very limited choice of aged care service providers, and hence does not agree with the argument that individuals will always be able to choose a non-religious service provider should they so wish.”
Minister for Ageing Mark Butler, said the proposed amendments would ensure older couples and individuals would no longer need to worry about experiencing discrimination when accessing aged care services.
“While most aged care service providers are accepting of residents regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, we think there should be legal protection that ensures such discrimination cannot occur,” Mr Butler said.
“When such services are provided with tax payer dollars, it is not appropriate for providers to discriminate in the provision of those services.”
The legislation will also protect same-sex de facto couples from discrimination by extending the ground of marital status in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to include relationship status.
The new protections build upon the Government’s reforms to eighty-five Commonwealth Acts which removed discrimination against same-sex couples and their children.
Work continues on the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill following the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s report which recommended significant policy, definitional and technical amendments.
While this work is being completed, the current Bill will provide important protections against discrimination in our community.