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Promoting the rights of LGBTIQ Victorians

Our vision: For LGBTIQ Victorians to no longer be subjected to discrimination in religious schools and for trans, gender diverse and intersex Victorians to be properly recognised and protected by the Equal Opportunity Act.

The problem

The Equal Opportunity Act allows discrimination against LGBTIQ students and staff

The current religious exemptions in the Equal Opportunity Act allow religious bodies and schools to lawfully refuse entry to a prospective student, expel a student, refuse to employ someone, or otherwise treat someone differently, on the basis of a range of attributes, including their sexual orientation or gender identity (Equal Opportunity Act ss 82-84).

The Equal Opportunity Act does not recognise non-binary genders or protect sex characteristics

The current definition of ‘gender identity’ in the Equal Opportunity Act excludes people who identify as a non-binary gender. This is inconsistent with recent reforms to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act 1996 (Vic).

The Act also fails to protect a person from being discriminated against on the basis of their ‘sex characteristics’, which would encompass ‘intersex status’. 

The Commission needs stronger powers to enforce LGBTIQ rights

The Commission is currently lacking powers to properly enforce the Equal Opportunity Act, and in particular, the positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation.

The solution

Religious exceptions should be narrowed in consultation with the LGBTIQ sector in Victoria to:

  • prohibit religious schools and individuals from discriminating against a student or prospective student other than on the basis of their religious belief or activity in relation to admission to the school or, for students already at the school, admission to a program within the school
  • reinstate the ‘inherent requirements’ test but limit it so that religious bodies and schools can only discriminate against staff and job applicants when the role requires the person to share the school or body’s religious belief
  • remove the standards of dress and behaviour exception, which religious schools may also use to discriminate on the basis of their religious belief.

The Act should redefine ‘gender identity’ and protect ‘sex characteristics’

The Commission requires stronger powers to enforce LGBTIQ rights

The Commission should be given stronger enforcement powers to enable us to enforce compliance with the law and ensure organisations are taking necessary steps to prevent discrimination against LGBTIQ people.

The Commission should be given stronger enforcement powers to enable us to undertake own-motion public inquiries, require people to attend or provide documents or information for the purposes of an inquiry and require organisations to take corrective action that is enforceable at VCAT.

Work we are doing

The Commission delivered a report ‘Proud, visible, safe’ responding to workplace harm experienced by LGBTIQ employees in Victoria Police. We also released a series of short films ‘Pride not Prejudice’ to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as attributes protected under the Equal Opportunity Act.

The Commission has made submissions to various inquiries and reviews, including: on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex rights; that anti-vilification laws should be extended to provide protection based on the attributes of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics; on the exposure drafts of the same-sex marriage bill and the Federal Religious Discrimination Bill.

The Commission participates as a member of the LGBTIQ Justice Working Group, which provides advice to government on current and emerging LGBTIQ issues and also acts as a forum for stakeholder consultation on relevant government policy, programs and services.

We recently wrote to the Attorney-General regarding our key priorities for reforming the Equal Opportunity Act and will continue to engage with stakeholders and government about progressing these important changes.

Related resources

Pride not Prejudice: Short film series – 2016

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Address
Level 3, 204 Lygon Street Carlton Victoria 3053

General enquiries
enquiries@veohrc.vic.gov.au

Reception
1300 891 848

Enquiry line
1300 292 153 or (03) 9032 3583

Interpreters
1300 152 494

NRS Voice Relay
1300 555 727 then use 1300 292 153

Media enquiries
0447 526 642

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Australians and recognises their culture, history, diversity and deep connection to the land.

We acknowledge that the Commission is on the land of the Kulin Nation and pay our respects to Elders past and present.