ACTS AMENDMENT (SEXUALITY DISCRIMINATION) BILL
SECOND READING


ACTS AMENDMENT (SEXUALITY DISCRIMINATION) BILL - SECOND READING
House:LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL- SECOND READING
Date:5.35 PM WEDNESDAY, 17 September 1997
Member:
Member:Hodgson, Hon Helen
Subject:ACTS AMENDMENT (SEXUALITY DISCRIMINATION) BILL - SECOND READING
Page:6305 / 1

of insurance and superannuation, and so it is an aim of this Bill to attempt to overcome those inequities. This will make it possible for gays and lesbians to take care of their same sex partner through superannuation contributions and insurance policies; an issue of immense importance to those in the gay and lesbian communities.

The right to accommodation is fundamental in our world today. We, as a society, have an obligation to ensure that members of our community are not discriminated against in seeking shelter because of their sexuality. The provision here would make it unlawful to refuse an application for accommodation, impose discriminatory terms and conditions for accommodation, defer or give lesser precedence for accommodation, deny or limit access to accommodation or evict an individual based on their sexuality. It does allow people to discriminate when the person letting the accommodation or a close relative of that person will also be living in the accommodation. This allows people to have the freedom of choice of whom they may have residing in their homes. Religious bodies providing accommodation will also be exempted and charitable or voluntary bodies providing accommodation solely for use by those of a particular sexuality or transgender identity will also be able to refuse accommodation on the basis of sexuality.

Clubs and incorporated associations: Under this Bill clubs and associations may not refuse membership or place special conditions on membership because of an applicant's sexuality or gender identity. Once a member of the club or association, there can be no discrimination in the terms or conditions of that membership, access to benefits afforded to members, or depriving a member of membership or any other detriment to a member on the basis of sexuality or transgender identity.

The exemption attached to this clause is for clubs or associations that have, as their principal purpose, the provision of benefits for people of a particular sexuality or transgender identity. The sole purpose test must be strictly enforced, with the club or association having to show that its affairs are structured in such a way as to solely benefit individuals of a particular sexuality or gender identity.

Discrimination in sport: Excluding a person from a sporting activity on the basis of his or her sexuality or gender identity would become unlawful under clause 35ZB of the Bill. This includes administration or coaching activities. However, discrimination will be lawful if the sporting activity is specifically conducted only for persons of a particular sexuality or gender identity.

Land: In disposing of interest in land it would be unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sexuality or gender identity unless the disposal is by will or gift or the land is within an area of land that has as its principal object the occupation by persons of a particular sexual or gender identity.

Other provisions: In all these areas it would be unlawful to ask a person to reveal his or her sexual or gender identity, as it should not be relevant to the situation. Of equal importance are the problems the partners of gay and lesbian people face. For example, access to their partners in hospitals when they are ill. In many situations, hospitals will not afford next of kin status to a same sex partner, thus denying them visiting rights or the right to be consulted when making medical decisions.

The Bill before the House today attempts to remove the discrimination against same sex partners. It acknowledges the rights of these partners and makes those rights equal to those enjoyed by heterosexual de facto partners where discrimination occurs. By altering the definition of de facto for the purposes of the Equal Opportunity Act, same sex couples will have protection under the ground of discrimination on the basis of marital status and therefore be given rights to see their partners, to be consulted in medical situations and to access employment benefits available to de facto partners. The recognition of same sex partners does not extend beyond the scope of the Equal Opportunity Act and does not provide recognition of such relationships for any other legal purpose. Only the Federal Government could amend the law to recognise homosexual or lesbian marriages. This Bill does not, and could not, do that.

Criminal Code amendments: The notion of equality is again the impetus behind changes to the Criminal Code with the aim of equalising, and I emphasise equalising, the age of consent for gay men. Currently the law discriminates between gay men and all other couples, including lesbians.

At the age of 16, both males and females are free to decide to have sexual relations with the opposite sex, and lesbians are also legally allowed to have sexual relations at 16. The age of consent differs for sexual relations with someone in a position of authority or power, being 18 years of age. For gay men, however, it is a criminal act to have sex with another man aged between 16 and 21 in all circumstances, with an age of consent set at 21.
This Bill will make the age of consent for all people 16, retaining the strict enforcement of an age of consent of 18 in situations where one of the parties is in a position of power or authority over the other. There is no legitimate reason why the age of consent for young gay men should be different from that for other citizens, and no reason why a man should be labelled a criminal for having a loving relationship with another male.