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A Human Rights Act could help LGBTI community

11-Oct-2015

A Human Rights Act has the potential to strengthen anti-discrimination laws that currently impact disproportionally on the LGBTI community writes Amy Remeikis in the Brisbane Times... 

Queensland Human Rights Act could help the LGBTI community

As the state looks at righting some of the long-held wrongs against Queensland's LGBTI community, stakeholders are looking forward to ensure it never happens again.

The Palaszczuk government has committed to reviewing a Bill or Charter of Rights for Queensland, to set rights and liberties in stone, against which all legislation would have to be tested.

LGBTI Legal Service director of operations Lia Shea said depending on what, if any, final form it took, it could help ensure one of the state's most traditional marginalised communities had their equality in the eyes of the law enshrined.

"A State Human Rights Act, in the right form, could remove the lawful discrimination of the LGBTI community in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1999," she said.

"Particularly the State Human Rights Act could completely overrule Section 28. This section specifically allows legal discrimination on the basis of gender identity for anyone working with children. Section 28 states that it is lawfully if: '…the discrimination is reasonably necessary to protect the physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing of minors having regard to all the relevant circumstances of the case, including the person's actions.'
"This insinuates that merely identifying as LGBTI can cause physical, psychological or emotional injury to a minor.
"This view is antiquated, simply wrong and hurtful to the LGBTI community. Having this set in stone by law places a solid barrier in the way to equality; it provides a legal basis for discrimination."

Ms Shea said any Bill of Rights would need to cover anti-discrimination to ensure true equality, which she said could be achieved by following in the footsteps of the ACT.

"The Australia Capital Territory Act specifically states that 'everyone has the right to enjoy his or her human rights without distinction or discrimination of any kind' and 'in particular, everyone has the right to equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground'," she said.

"The act states that persons cannot be discriminated against '…because of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other status'."

Given Queensland's unicameral parliament, a Bill of Rights has been on the agenda often. Supporters, including independent MP Peter Wellington under the previous government, have advocated the legislation to make it harder for governments to change laws that would impact on the rights of the state's citizens.

The Palaszczuk government promised to investigate a charter as part of its commitments to Mr Wellington in return for his support in governing Queensland's hung parliament.

Ms Shea said while a Federal Human Rights Act would be the ultimate goal, Queensland establishing one was a start.

The LGBTI Legal Service will be making a submission in regards to the review into a Charter of Rights for Queensland. It has urged any member of the LGBTI community who has "been affected by lawful discrimination" to contact it at info@lgbtilegalservice.org.


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