The Turnbull Government has pledged to rid Australia of discrimination against LGBTI people by June 2016, excepting marriage, which will be dealt with in a plebiscite by the Australian people.
The Government made this pledge to the United Nations human rights review into Australia held in Geneva recently. 110 other nations took Australia to task about one human rights issue or another, such as offshore detention at Manus Island and Nauru.
Showing the virtues of the recently converted, Ireland took Australia to task for not recognising same sex marriage.
The pledge by the Turnbull government follows up a report by Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson who has identified discrimination at State and Federal levels against LGBTI people. These include gay panic defence in several states, including Queensland, the different age of consent in Queensland, the inability of gay and lesbian couples to adopt in Queensland, SA, NT and currently Victoria (although the last is passing laws, subject to religious exemption to remove that), and the inability of same sex couples in SA and gay couples in WA to have children via surrogacy.
Queensland’s anti-discrimination laws still contain an exemption for religious schools to discriminate against LGBTI teachers, and another exemption for assisted reproductive treatment including IVF against LGBTI people.
If the states don’t remove these exemptions in time, the Commonwealth could legislate, relying on the external affairs power, as it did 30 years ago when it abolished the crime of sodomy between consenting adults.
Stephen Page is a partner of Harrington Family Lawyers and is Brisbane’s LGBTIQ Activist of the Year