Equal Opportunity Amendment (LGBTI Equality) Bill 2016
Victorian Greens LGBTI spokesperson Sam Hibbins MP has launched the exposure draft of the Equal Opportunity Amendment (LGBTI Equality) Bill 2016 and supporting documents for public consultation.
The Bill removes the special religious exemptions for faith based schools and organisations. It strengthens the powers of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, which benefits everyone in Victoria. It creates new protection for people with intersex variations, for the first time in Victoria and it updates the outdated definition of gender identity.
• The current situation in Victoria
• Why we need change
• The Bill
• Remove the special religious exemptions
• Restore VEOHRC’s powers
• Protection for people with intersex variations or traits
• Update the definition of gender identity
• Frequently Asked Questions
The current situation in Victoria
Victoria’s principal human rights and anti discrimination law is the Equal Opportunity Act. It sets out what rights are protected and it empowers the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to educate about those rights and resolve disputes.
The Act needs updating so that it better protects same-sex and gender diverse Victorians from discrimination at school, at work and in the community.
Why we need change
Being yourself is a human right
Freedom of sex, sexuality and gender identity are fundamental human rights.
For people to have the freedom to be themselves, we need to outlaw discrimination.
Discrimination harms people
Discrimination causes real, deep and lasting harm.
LGBTI people endure higher rates of bullying, harassment and violence than other Australians.
There is a clear link between discrimination and higher rates of mental health issues and suicide.
When we allow discrimination through our laws, we create spaces where same-sex attracted and gender diverse people have no protection – including schools and workplaces.
Remove the special religious exemptions
Religious bodies run many Victorian schools and community service organisations for housing and homelessness, child and family welfare, adoption agencies, drug and alcohol support, counselling and more, including with government funding.
Religious bodies have special exemptions within the Equal Opportunity Act to discriminate against people for a whole range of reasons, including the person being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender as well as marital status and pregnancy.
The bill removes the special religious exemptions, except for core religious functions and ceremonies.
The bill repeals three religious exemptions:
• The exemption for other roles and activities - section 82(2)
The exemption in s.82(2) relates to people and activities that are not part of the religious body’s religious orders and religious ceremonies.
It allows religious bodies to discriminate in terms of who they employ, who they assist and how carry out their activities, if the discrimination “conforms with the doctrines, beliefs or principles of the religion” or “is reasonably necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of the religion”.
• The exemption for religious schools – section 83
Religious schools have special permission to discriminate against students, teachers and non-teaching staff, if the discrimination “conforms with the doctrines, beliefs or principles of the religion” or “is reasonably necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of the religion”.
• Exemption for people with religious beliefs or principles – section 84
This is similar to the exemption for religious bodies, except that the exemption is for individual people and unincorporated bodies – it is a catch-all exemption.
Restore the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission's powers
The Greens bill restores the powers of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to conduct public inquiries, enter into enforceable undertakings and to issue compliance notices.
It restores the power for the Commission to order someone to provide information and documents, and to order a witnesses to attend and answer questions.
Protection for people with Intersex variations or traits
The Greens bill adds protection against discrimination for people with intersex variations, for the first time in Victoria.
Update the definition of Gender Identity
The Greens bill updates the definition of ‘gender identity’ in the Equal Opportunity Act to be consistent with the new, more accurate definition in Commonwealth law.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What will happen if we remove the religious exemptions?
If we remove the exemptions, religious groups would have to comply with the same Victorian equal opportunity and human rights laws as everyone else.
Religious bodies and individuals would also have the same right to apply for an exemption as every other Victorian, but they will need a valid reason to discriminate.
The main difference is that religious groups and individuals wouldn’t be able to decide for themselves whether or not another person deserves the protection of Victoria’s human rights and equal opportunity laws.
Q. How will this affect churches and other places of worship?
The Greens will not remove the special exemption for the core religious people and activities of religious bodies.
Our bill does not change section 82(1) of the Act, which provides for religious bodies to discriminate in very broad terms when they select, train or ordain the people who conduct and participate in their religious orders and religious ceremonies.
Q. Will there still be single sex or religious schools?
Our bill does not change section 39 of the Act, which allows any school – religious or not – to be run wholly or mainly for students of a particular sex, race, religious belief, age or age group or for students with a general or particular disability.
Q. Will religious schools have to enrol a person who has transitioned gender or support a person who is transitioning gender?
Use the feedback form to have your say, or contact
Sam Hibbins MP
94 Chapel Street, Windsor 3181
Ph: 9981 9501