Queensland must scrap a harmful law that allows employers to discriminate against transgender and gender diverse people when working with children, advocacy groups say.
The Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC) is currently reviewing the state’s 30-year-old Anti-Discrimination Act.
One “offensive” exemption in the Act allows employers to discriminate “on the basis of lawful sexual activity or gender identity” if “reasonably necessary to protect the physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing of minors” in a workplace. Sex workers can also face discrimination on that same basis.
In its submission, Rainbow Families Queensland warns the clause “perpetuates offensive stereotypes about trans people being a risk to children”.
“It clearly must be removed from the Act as a high priority,” the group said.
“Rainbow Families Queensland is aware of transgender teachers who’ve expressed fear of discrimination due to this provision.”
Spokesperson Matilda Alexander said the provision furthers harmful myths about LGBTIQ+ people posing a risk to children.
“I’ve spoken to individuals who are concerned [and] have felt that their jobs are maybe at risk because of this,” Alexander told The Guardian.
“This kind of law contributes to stigma and it also makes people feel like they are less valued members of society. [It] has no place in contemporary society, and we’re expecting it to be repealed.”
Law targeting transgender people is ‘offensive’ and ‘redundant’
The QHRC itself has said “no other jurisdiction specifically permits discrimination against sex workers, transgender, or intersex people in this way”.
The exemption also appears “redundant given the rigorous blue card screening processes that are already taking place when people work with minors”.
Sex worker advocacy group Respect Inc warned sex workers who also work with minors have lost their jobs under the clause.
Meanwhile, LGBTIQ groups have also called for changes to other areas of Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act. One section allows discrimination on the basis of sexuality for access to IVF.
Additionally, the Act’s contentious “genuine occupational requirement” clause allows religious bodies to discriminate against people who “openly act in a way that the person knows or ought reasonably to know is contrary to the employer’s religious beliefs”.
Rainbow Families said as a result, trans and gender diverse teachers “may feel they cannot affirm their gender identity” in schools.
Moreover, lesbian, gay and bisexual teachers may need to “remain in the closet” at work, the group warned.
“Hiding or supressing sexuality and gender identity causes significant psychological harm. It can lead to ongoing mental health issues and suicidal ideation,” the group said.
“Religious employers may argue that they need to retain their religious ethos, but this should not come at such a high expense to employees.”
The QHRC will hand its recommendations to the Queensland government on reforms to the Anti-Discrimination Act on July 30.
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