Australia said YES to LGBTI equality in 2017 – it’s time for NSW’s anti-discrimination laws to catch up.

Thursday 11 October 2018

The New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has called on NSW Parliament to overhaul its dated Anti-Discrimination Act to reflect modern community sentiment.

Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said the outdated NSW laws were now among the worst in the nation.

“As we’ve all been reminded this week by many, including the Prime Minister, this state has some of the broadest exemptions and loopholes in favour of religious discrimination in Australia today,” Foy said.

“These laws do not belong in the 21st Century. They are prejudiced, and they are archaic. Kids shouldn’t be allowed under law to be kicked out of school just for being gay, lesbian, or transgender.

“After the overwhelming public victory for equality in the 2017 national marriage survey, it’s high time for NSW anti-discrimination law to be brought into line with modern community sentiment,” Foy said.

Ms Foy noted the 2010 decision of the Court of Appeal, allowing Wesley Mission to discriminate on religious grounds against a male same-sex couple who had applied to be foster carers to children in need.

“NSW law leaves major loopholes, largely for religious organisations, to discriminate against LGBTI people in a wide variety of circumstances in their everyday life.

“From schooling, to healthcare, to adoption – NSW law leaves LGBTI people exposed to extraordinary discrimination that’s long been out of step with community sentiment,” Foy stated.

NSW was the first Australian jurisdiction to introduce anti-discrimination laws covering homosexuality in 1982. However, in the 35 years since, these laws have gone from ‘first to worst’ – they do not cover bisexuality or sex characteristics, according to Co-Convenor James Bolster.

“The NSW Anti-Discrimination Act doesn’t provide protections for bisexuals, and needs a major overhaul of definitions and application for transgender, non-binary and intersex people,” Mr Bolster said.

“Our state parliament has shown great leadership by updating vilification law this year – and we have every hope they can do so again,” Mr Bolster concluded.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby will continue to work with all NSW parliamentarians to ensure the modernisation of anti-discrimination law in NSW.

Religious Freedoms Report signals social cohesion and the rights of Australian Kids now at risk from Canberra

After media leaks today from the ‘Religious Freedoms’ Report, both major federal political parties must immediately rule out legislating discrimination against LGBTI Australians, warned the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby today.
“This is about our children and the type of country we all want to live in,” Lobby Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said.
“Do we want to live in a country where thousands of young LGBTI kids are being taught their innate sexuality, their gender, or their choice of relationship is wrong or immoral or unnatural?”
After the revealing health and wellbeing impacts of the marriage survey on LGBTI Australians twelve months ago, GLRL has warned of the impacts of further government-endorsed discrimination.
“Twelve months ago, we saw demand for mental health services spike because of the Government’s marriage survey which put the innate rights of LGBTI Australians up for public debate,” Foy said.
“It feels like we are back here again. Can you imagine the mental health impacts on young Australians if the Federal Government legislates to support religious schools teaching our children that their sexuality – that who they are – is wrong?”
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Co-Convenor James Bolster called on leaders to remember the enormity of the 2017 vote for equality for LGBTI Australians.
“After the unprecedented scale of the last year’s victory for equality for LGBTI Australians, it is on all parliamentarians to respect the will of the people, and to back in the rights of young LGBTI kids at religious schools.”
“Our Parliamentarians should remember that Australians did not support further discrimination against LGBTI people – they supported equality. The same message should be heeded by anyone wanting to be a parliamentarian, including candidates in Wentworth.”
Wentworth recorded an 81% result in favour of equal marriage rights for LGBTI couples in 2017.
“Unless our representatives rule out this proposal, it puts so much at risk – it risks our social cohesion by pitting religious communities against other minorities; it risks the rights of Australian kids to be raised in supportive environments free from harm.”
Today, 10 October, is World Mental Health Day.
ENDS

Rights Lobby welcomes Inquiry, warns Police they must do more to earn community’s confidence

19 September 2018

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW) welcomes today’s announcement of a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into gay and transgender hate crimes and the current criminal justice culture relating to such crimes. The Lobby has been involved in the collection of evidence around LGBTI hate crimes for nearly 30 years – a number of which were looked into through the Operation Parrabell report.

“This inquiry is overdue. For the heartbroken friends and family members of these individuals, who were targeted and murdered, it has been a decades long journey for justice and redress. And that journey is not over,” Co-Convenor Lauren Foy said.

The Lobby warned, however, that after years of goodwill the final release of the Operation Parrabell report was deeply disheartening and only added to the call for an Inquiry.

“The NSW Police spent pages and pages of its Parrabell report attempting to frame these violent murders as somehow ‘a part of the times’. They also ducked any obligation they had to assess the role of Police bias in the often woeful response to these crimes due to widespread social prejudice against LGBTI people.

“Murder has always been considered a crime in NSW. Social prejudice has never been an excuse for murder. This shows just how far is left to go for NSW Police in 2018,” Foy said.

The Lobby also believes there is mounting evidence NSW Police has failed to properly address its internal culture relating to LGBTI people and crimes affecting them.

“In the past year we’ve seen shocking revelations about an alleged culture of institutional homophobia within NSW Police, including bullying of employees at Newtown Local Area Command, and a failure to take cases of domestic violence seriously when reported by LGBTI people,” Foy said.

“Unfortunately this goes to the highest levels of NSW Police, with the current Commissioner involved in attempts to internally resolve the Newtown homophobia case.

“If it wasn’t for the bravery of these individuals and the work of Dowson Turco Lawyers, NSW Police would still be turning a blind eye to homophobia within its ranks,” Foy said.

While welcoming the Inquiry, the Lobby highlighted there are practical steps NSW Police can take today to improve the situation – if it has the appetite for real change.

“NSW Police doesn’t have to wait for an Inquiry to take action. We want to see ongoing education modules relating to LGBTI people as a standard of employment for every employee of NSW Police – from the Commissioner down. It is no longer good enough to have a handful of ‘trained’ GLLOs.*”

“An individual living in any corner of this state should be able to deal with any NSW Police employee with confidence, knowing they will be treated equally and respectfully.

Until that becomes a reality, NSW Police have not done enough to earn the community’s confidence and NSW Parliament, sadly, must act to make it a reality for LGBTI people.”

The Lobby acknowledges the long-running advocacy of Shayne Mallard and Penny Sharpe among many parliamentarians who supported establishing this Inquiry, as well as the vital importance of ACON’s report In Pursuit of Truth and Justice released this year.

*Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers, NSW Police.

NSW Government signals reforms to state’s vilification laws to protect all LGBTI people

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby today welcomed the Berejiklian Governments moves to strengthen protections for LGBTI communities in NSW via the passage of the Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Bill 2018.
“The limited coverage offered by previous the NSW anti-vilification framework was in clear need of reform and this Bill presented a strong opportunity for the Government to make it clear that vilification in NSW under no circumstance, is acceptable. This is a reform process NSWGLRL have worked very closely on for many, many years.”
“We are pleased to have worked with the Keep NSW Safe alliance across multi-faith and multi-cultural lines, the then Attorney-General, the member for Vaucluse, the Hon. Gabrielle Upton MP, and Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian, AO, who undertook broad community consultation beginning in November 2016 and to date, with Attorney General Speakman to come to consensus on creating a framework for strengthening social cohesion.” says Lauren Foy of NSWGLRL.
Attorney General Speakman has informed that legislation will create a new offence in the Crimes Act of publicly threatening or inciting violence against people on the grounds of race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex characteristics or HIV/AIDS status, including a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and a fine of $11,000.
This means that any form of communication (including speaking, writing, displaying notices, playing of recorded material, broadcasting and communicating through social media and other electronic methods) to the public, and any conduct (including actions and gestures and the wearing or display of clothing, signs, flags, emblems and insignia) observable by the public, as well as the distribution or dissemination of any matter to the public will become illegal. Such an act may be a public act even if it occurs on private land.
Significantly, the new offence will be investigated by the NSW Police Force and require the approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions to commence a prosecution, making the process of complaint and investigation more stream lined as per the recommendations of Standing Committee on Law and Justice to inquire and report into the serious racial vilification offence in the Anti-Discrimination Act from 2013.
NSWGLRL are encouraged by these new reforms and congratulate the Attorney General on progressing this work. It is certainly a welcomed step in the right direction for many communities in NSW, with legislation now providing protections for bisexual people and people with atypical sex characteristics. Such considerations and the adoption of these legislative change see NSW brought into line with the Commonwealth and other states and territories with respect to these matters.
However, exemptions relating to discriminatory acts that are permitted or necessitated by legislation still continue to remain outstanding in the NSW Anti-Discrimination laws.
As such, NSWGLRL consider LGBTI issues should have been simultaneously addressed in conjunction with reforms to racial vilification, specifically, reform to section 20C and 20D of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) – this was a missed opportunity.
For equal opportunity protections to truly extend to LGBTI people in NSW, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) must be amended.
“NSWGLRL believes that the groundswell of support is moving in the direction of removing the last bastion of remaining discriminations against LGBTI Australians in NSW. We also note the hurtful, vitriolic debate regarding the survey on changes to the Marriage Act (Cth), the contributions of some religious bodies to the “no” debate” and the negative impact that this debate had on LGBTI Australians living in NSW.
NSWGLRL support the proposal to hold all people, including religious bodies, more accountable for their actions and the effect that their actions have on LGBTI people living in NSW. Just as these laws protecting identified groups from threats of violence are important to securing the safety of NSW communities, laws and principles of non-discrimination are also paramount to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to protecting our diverse and vibrant communities for the benefit of all New South Wales residents.” Says Foy

New Committee of Management for NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby

The fight for LGBTI rights has made significant advances in recent years, but there is still much to do – and the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is leading the charge.

At the recent Annual General Meeting the Lobby’s Committee of Management was refreshed, with new members bringing a range of skills and experience.

Members of the Committee include experts in human rights and discrimination law, community development, and mental health marketing.

“It is an honour to work with such a dedicated team, and an exciting time to be involved,” the Co-convenors said.

“We are witnessing a dramatic change in the way LGBTI people are viewed in Australian society, but there remains a tremendous amount of work to do.”

It was noted at the AGM that in 2018 the Lobby will celebrate 30 years of continual advocacy.

“In 2018 the Lobby will celebrate 30 years of advocacy for vital law reforms affecting LGBTI communities – from decriminalisation of homosexuality through to marriage equality,” the Co-convenors said.

“We look forward to sharing a moment with you as we host a range of events, to consider what achieving and maintaining full equality looks like – and of course, to celebrate how far we’ve come!”

NSW GLRL’s Annual Report documents the group’s steps towards legal reform and equality for the state’s LGBTI residents, highlighting:

• The preparation of 11 detailed submissions to Government or Parliamentary Inquiries

• The development of a geo-mapping project to highlight hotspots of vilification across NSW, in partnership with Monash University and ACON

• The landmark national media moment of presenting 12 years’ worth of your Equality hearts on the front lawns of Australian Parliament

• Appreciation to the amazing volunteers who helped the Lobby participate in 10 community based events

• We partnered to host the biggest pro LGBTI rally seen in NSW’s history

• We participated in 104 stakeholder and community meetings

• We provided 347 media interviews and comments nationally and internationally.

According to the report, the organisation’s goals for the year ahead include working on combatting discrimination, especially removing exemptions for religious organisations. Legislation needs to address the fundamental right to equality and non-discrimination before the law and corresponding rights to security of the person within the context of a Human Rights Framework, comprehensive state and federal vilification and discrimination protections and safety for young LGBTI people and rainbow families.

Our law reform priorities.

FEDERAL

The removal of exemptions for faith based organisations receiving Commonwealth funding

Comprehensive Federal Vilification Protections

A national Surrogacy Framework

Reinvigoration of a Frame Work for Human Rights in Australia

Processing of Asylum seekers, queer and queer friendly services for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, UN humanitarian intake, detention and shifting the conversation within LGBTIQ communities about intersectionality, human rights and equality

Marriage Equality*

STATE

The re-introduction of Safe Schools or a similar anti bullying program in NSW

Review of NSW Anti-Discrimination and Vilification legislation

Banning of Conversion/Reparative therapy

A review of the Expungement (conviction for homosexual activity prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality NSW) Scheme to ensure best practice and equitable access

Independent police oversight and scrutiny of Operation Parrabell

LOCAL

Street Light Audit in partnership with the City of Sydney and Local relationships

Development of a Pride Centre in the Inner West

SENATOR SMITH’S MARRIAGE AMENDMENT BILL: THE ONLY LEGITIMATE BILL COME 15 NOVEMBER 2017

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) has today called on Federal Parliament to immediately enable debate on marriage equality legislation if the survey result is a majority “YES” on 15 November 2017.

“With nearly 11 million Australians having voted, and the Labor Caucus today backing Dean Smith’s Bill, the nation’s attention now rightly turns to ‘what will Parliament do once the result is announced?’,” Convenor of GLRL, Ms Lauren Foy said.

“The Australian Parliament mustn’t muck around if the Australian people say “YES” on 15 November – parliament must get behind Senator Smith’s Marriage Amendment Bill and pass it as soon as possible.”

The Senate will be sitting on 15 November and could potentially move to immediately debate Senator Smith’s Amendment Bill after the 11:30AM announcement of the survey result.

While equality advocates like GLRL have serious reservations about the Bill favouring religious rights over other rights for marriage celebrants, several conclude it’s the only legitimate Bill to quickly resolve the issue.

“Only one Bill has the legitimacy of being presented to the Australian public in the run-up to and during this unprecedented survey – and that’s Senator Smith’s consensus Bill,” Ms Foy said.

Senator Smith’s Bill has received national coverage in the lead up to, and during, the postal survey period. Major media organisations have provided analysis and coverage of the Bill, and our only nation-wide newspaper, The Australian, even provided its online readership with a full copy of the Bill in the first weeks of the postal survey period.

“We’re prepared to put aside our reservations about Senator Smith’s Bill favouring religious laypeople who are celebrants in order that Australia can have a resolution before Christmas 2017,” Ms Foy said.

“It has Labor’s backing and we know many in Parliament have said they support it – so now we all want to know: does Prime Minister Turnbull’s Cabinet support it?”

“If the nation says YES come 15 November 2017, then there’s no case for any other Bill to pass parliament – and no case for ushering in major new discriminations against LGBTI people under the smokescreen of so-called religious ‘freedoms’,” Ms Foy concluded.

Senator Smith’s Bill is based on the consensus report of the recent Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill. The Select Committee held public hearings and received over 400 submissions from the public, including several religious organisations.

STATEMENT: “Straight Lives Matter” Rally

This weekend a “Straight Lives Matter” rally is planned for a well-known LGBTI area in Sydney.

We urge the community to stay away from this rally.

The goal of this group is not to persuade nor debate. It is to provoke a response and increase media attention.

We note the organisers have a history of provocation and their minds are already made up on marriage equality. We also note these individuals are not approaching us in a respectful, open-minded way to discuss concerns or issues.

The next few months will continue to test our integrity as some seek to delegitimise our calls for equality before the law.

This is another reason why we urge people to stay away from the rally. There is no benefit to you hearing, again, the debunked ‘slippery slope’ claims about LGBTI people and marriage equality promoted by this group.

We also urge any group considering a counter-rally to be mindful.

While we respect the right of community members to register and hold a rally or protest we do not endorse any protest being held near Oxford Street on this issue on the afternoon of Saturday 23 September 2017.

This includes the counter-rally. We note the counter-rally is organised by a collective who aren’t formally part of the YES Campaign group of organisations.

Finally, it should go without saying that no matter what your political views, using violence and physical intimidation is never acceptable.

We must remember what this is about – love, dignity and mutual respect.

ENDS  

Marriage Equality Campaign urges communities in NSW to join together and say ‘YES’ to marriage equality

Campaigners for marriage equality have united to urge all NSW residents to check their enrolment details with the Australian Electoral Commission before midnight August 24.

Longstanding LGBTI rights organisations, grassroots campaigners and politicians have combined to support the ‘YES’ campaign and to ensure people have registered to have their say.

“We strongly urge members of the community to make sure you’re enrolled, and that your details are up to date with the Australian Electoral Commission by visiting their website,” Lauren Foy, Convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby said.

While universally condemning the idea of using a non-compulsory postal survey, advocates acknowledged that, subject to a successful High Court challenge, the community will need to participate in the postal survey.

“There is momentum behind marriage equality but like with the Brexit vote in the UK, we are strongly urging everyone not to be complacent,”  Ms Foy said.

Ms Foy also urged communities to engage in local events, speak to friends, family, colleagues, neighbours and strangers to advocate for marriage equality.

“LGBTI groups are united in this message – now is the time for Australia to embrace marriage equality” she said.

“Now is not the time to be silent – now is the time to make your voice heard. This is not only about marriage, about love, and equality – it is also about the direction of our nation.

“Do we want a stronger nation that embraces more freedom, respect and tolerance for all Australians? If you do then get involved – don’t sit on the sidelines.”

Ms Foy urged the community to attend a QandA discussion about the campaign and what you can do to be on the bright side of history.

Speakers include:

Alex Greenwich Co-Chair Australian Marriage Equality

Hon. Tanya Plibersek Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women

Jenny Leong MP Member for Newtown

Tiernan Brady Director The Equality Campaign

Lauren Foy Convenor NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby

Sally Rugg Campaign Director GetUp!

RSVP for the Event Here

NSWGLRL welcomes the release of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) welcomes this Bill and its attempt to find a compromise proposal the current Parliament can support. This reform to the Marriage Act is long overdue and much too important to be delayed any longer.

However, it has been the longstanding position of the NSWGLRL that there should be no religious exemptions in the treatment of LGBTI persons where a service is provided by, or on behalf of, the Australian Government.

The proposed Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 appears to offer current marriage celebrants a legal protection to refuse to marry gay and lesbian couples based solely on a personal religious belief [see: Section 39 DD (2), and Section 47 A]. This new exemption would also apply to straight couples.

NSWGLRL does not support this new encroachment of personal religious beliefs into the provision of services supplied by Government-authorised celebrants who are not Ministers of Religion.

Despite this imperfection the Bill has every chance of succeeding in Parliament if there is a conscience vote – and there should be no excuse for further delay or rejection of this Bill by the current Parliament.

The recent Senate Committee inquiry into marriage equality rose above party politics and showed that political parties can work together to deliver the will of the Australian people.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) is the leading organisation for lesbian and gay rights in NSW. Established in 1988, our mission is to achieve substantive legislative and social equality for lesbians, gay men and their families.

A statement from the NSW GLRL Co-convenors

Earlier this week, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, as well as one of its Committee of Management members, Shannon Molloy, was on the receiving end of behaviour that was completely unacceptable.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is an organisation that for twenty-nine years has continued to fight for equality for LGBTI people. We believe that no person should be discriminated against for who they are. We also believe that no person should be victimised because of who they are. We have seen too many instances of abuse that people within the LGBTI community, as well as the LGBTI community as a whole, has received. Being told that we do not deserve the same rights, the same protections, the same respect, is something that no person should ever have to experience. When that behaviour comes from within our own community, it should be condemned. There is a difference between having a debate on an issue, and personally attacking someone. The behaviour that has been shown this week towards particular individuals that have proudly volunteered for our organisation has been nothing short of appalling. It is damaging, and there should be consequences for those responsible.

One of the biggest strengths that the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has is its volunteers – something which has existed throughout the entirety of the organisation’s history. Every person that sits on the Committee of Management, including ourselves as Co-convenors, are volunteers. We are completely committed to our mandate of achieving legislative and social equality for LGBTI people, and we as volunteers give as much time and effort as we possibly can to make that happen. Attacking and criticising one volunteer purely because of their employer, one which afforded them the opportunity to speak of their discrimination and victimisation they have personally experienced, is unacceptable. Volunteers speak for and represent themselves, not their entire place of employment. To use the actions of others as justification to abuse people is wrong. It is not acceptable, and it never will be.

It is with sadness that following the amount of public attention his role at the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has attracted this week, Shannon Molloy has resigned from the Committee of Management. Shannon has the total support of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, and should he ever wish to return to the organisation to help create positive change for our community, an issue which is so dear to his heart, we will welcome him back with open arms. Since his election to the Committee of Management, Shannon has made an incredible difference to the organisation, and we cannot thank him enough.

The unwarranted abuse has to stop. People within the LGBTI community should only want the absolute best for their peers, their friends, their loved ones, their community. There should only be one priority – achieving equality, not stopping until the day that arrives, and supporting each other to make that happen every single day.