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Joint Statement on the Religious Freedom Review recommendations from LGBTI organisations, leaders and allies

Source: Human Rights Law Centre via https://www.hrlc.org.au/news/2018/10/17/lgbti-groups-leaders-and-allies-call-on-government-to-protect-trans-and-gender-diverse-students-and-teachers

Above: Signatories to the Joint Statement

Last week, following leaks of the 20 recommendations from the Religious Freedom Review, many Australians were outraged to learn that under current anti-discrimination laws, schools and other services run by religious bodies are legally able to discriminate against LGBTI children, clients and workers.

The Government has committed to repealing discrimination law exemptions that allow religious schools to turn away and expel gay students, however there has been no commitment to protect trans and gender diverse children, or workers in schools.

Earlier this week, 50 organisations including the LGBTI Legal Service called on the Federal Government to amend outdated anti-discrimination laws to ensure all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people are treated with fairness and equality. The organisations’ joint statement said:

As organisations, leaders and allies of diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities, we stand united in our call on all Australian governments to ensure that every person can go to school, work or access services free from discrimination.

Australians voted for fairness and equality last year, not to entrench discrimination against
LGBTI people and their families.

LGBTI people have – time and again – shown strength and resilience in the face of adversity.
communities. However, discrimination continues to have a devastating impact on the health of our communities. That’s why these outdated laws which entrench discrimination need to change.

Last week, following leaks of the Religious Freedom Review recommendations, many Australians were surprised and outraged to learn that under current anti-discrimination laws schools and other services run by religious bodies are able to legally discriminate against LGBTI children, clients and workers. Our shared goal is simple – we want equality for all children to learn, and equality for all people to do their job.

Kids in schools should be focusing on classes, homework and building friendships, not living in fear of mistreatment because of who they or their families are. Children have been asked to leave their school because they have come out, or because of their parents being part of LGBTI communities.

Teachers should be focusing on educating their students, not worrying about losing their job. No employee should face discrimination when the reason has nothing to do with their job.

We welcome the recent bipartisan commitment to end discrimination against children in schools on the basis of sexuality. While welcome, we also need to protect trans and gender diverse students, and teachers and other school staff, from discrimination. We should be aiming for best practice, not lowering the standard.

Most religious schools don’t use their exemptions to discriminate, and instead provide
supportive and inclusive environments for their students and staff. But these issues are broader than just schools and education.

In parts of Australia, religious organisations can also turn away LGBTI people from essential
family violence, disability, adoption and housing services.

The Religious Freedom Review recommends reviewing these exemptions on the basis of race, disability, pregnancy and intersex status. We welcome the removal of laws that allow discrimination against intersex people, and will continue to advocate for reforms that respect the human rights and dignity of intersex people in relation to medical treatment.

However, the report recommends retaining these religious exemptions to discriminate against
members of our communities on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or
relationship status.

We’ve moved away from a time where it’s considered acceptable to treat people unfairly simply because of who we are or who we love. For example, Tasmanian laws already do not allow religious groups to discriminate against LGBTI people in schools or service delivery. Unfair exemptions for religious groups fundamentally undermine the integrity of laws which are supposed to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics.

All children should be accepted for who they are at school. Every person should be able to do their job without having to hide who they are. Every school should be inclusive of diverse families in the school community. We should all be able to access publicly available services free from discrimination.

We call on all political leaders and governments across Australia to take action now by
amending outdated anti-discrimination laws to make sure they treat LGBTI people with fairness
and equality.

Download the full Joint Statement (PDF, 555.6 KB)
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Anti-discrimination Vilification Case Filed Against Hate Speech During the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey

Download this media release (PDF, 420.2 KB) 420.2 KB

 

The LGBTI Legal Service lodged today a complaint of vilification against 25 people responsible for engaging in public acts of hate speech during the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey last year.

Last year, the LGBTI Legal Service received State Government funding to monitor and bring to account people engaging in unlawful hate speech during the postal survey. This project resulted in the complaint lodged today with the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland.

During the postal survey, the LGBTI Legal Service collected over 220 examples of hate speech. The hate speech ranges from individual posts on social media pages to neo-Nazi groups plastering posters around university campuses. From these examples, the LGBTI Legal Service selected the worst of the worst to sue under the Queensland vilification laws. These laws prohibit publicly engaging in hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule someone because they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

These Queensland laws draw a line between hate speech and free speech, recognising the harmful and destructive impact of vilification.

Matilda Alexander, President of the LGBTI Legal Service, said:

To those who would publicly vilify and condemn us for our simple acts of love, we say enough is enough. We have been shamed, shunned and looked down on for too many years. We have protections in the law and today we will use those legal protections to fight back.

We lodge this action on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender queer and intersex communities around Australia who endured hatred during the postal survey.  We stand with you and we stand up for you. We are taking this action against people who think “its ok to say no” means it’s ok to say “burn the faggots” or “send poofters to their own island” or “’you are all getting rooftopped” or “Hitler had the right idea about homosexuals, burn them”. These shocking comments are hate speech and today we are holding the perpetrators to account.

The Postal Survey opened the door to homophobia and vilification being expressed under the guise of legitimate debate. This case will close that door.

Contact: Matilda Alexander (President) president@lgbtilegalservice.org

Listen on ABC Breakfast Radio: http://www.abc.net.au/radio/brisbane/programs/breakfast/breakfast/10163254

Frequently Asked Questions

What is vilification?

If someone publicly incites hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of someone because they identify as lesbian, bisexual, or gay, it may be vilification. Vilification is against the law in Queensland under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld).

Does this conflict with freedom of religion or freedom of speech?

No. Hate speech will not be unlawful if it is done reasonably and in good faith for academic, scientific, artistic, research or religious discussion, or other purposes in the public interest or a fair report of a public act.

When will we know the outcome of the case?

The case will proceed through the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ) conciliation process.  If this does not resolve the complaint to our satisfaction we will consider taking it to QCAT. This process could take over a year.  We will be represented by Clayton Utz who have provided pro bono assistance throughout this project.

How can I find out more about laws about hate speech?

A good place to get information is the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland: https://www.adcq.qld.gov.au/resources/lgbti-people/Sexuality-and-your-rights.

Also, if you or anyone you know has experienced unlawful discrimination or vilification (hate speech), we encourage you to book an appointment to speak with our lawyers at the LGBTI Legal Service.

Why now?

There is a 12-month limitation on bringing complaints of discrimination and vilification.  Many people reported hate speech to us over the survey period and we were required to consider each instance through a legal lens in order to decide whether it constituted hate speech and whether an exemption applied.  After doing this, we found we had over 220 cases we could bring, however we wanted to ensure the focus was on the worst offenders.  We have also been working to track down the people responsible for Facebook posts, which took time.

What if people used a different name on Facebook?

Many people engaging in this activity hide behind fake profiles on the internet and IP addresses can be tracked to make real people accountable for actions such as Facebook posts.

Image courtesy Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

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LGBTI Legal Service

Applications Open: Volunteer Marketing and Events Director

Did you know we are seeking an organised, self-motivated person who is able to coordinate our marketing and events operations? We are looking for a Marketing and Events Director who can lead collaboratively, take initiative and see the connection between strategy and operations.

Ideal candidates will exhibit the following qualities:

  1. An excellent awareness of the issues facing the LGBTIQ+ community and a commitment to equal access to justice.
  2. Currently undertaking or having completed a marketing-related degree.
  3. Strong skills in technology and online social media platforms.
  4. Demonstrated ability to effectively coordinate a team, work as an efficient team member and use initiative with minimum supervision.
  5. Demonstrated ability to bring together resources and manage multiple tasks simultaneously and efficiently.

If you are interested, please view the position description and apply via hr@lgbtilegalservice.org before by close of business on 24 August 2018.

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Expungement of Historical Homosexual Convictions

The following media release was published by the Human Rights Law Centre at https://www.hrlc.org.au/news/2018/7/23/legal-service-to-clear-unjust-convictions-launched on 23 July 2018:

Righting the wrongs of Queensland’s homophobic past: legal service to clear unjust convictions launched

People in Queensland who have convictions for historic consensual same-sex activity can now apply to have their criminals records removed through the LGBTI Legal Service.

Emile McPhee, Executive Director of the LGBTI Legal Service, said the team were looking forward to helping repair the lifelong trauma people have endured.

“The aim of this service is to ensure that individuals affected by convictions can finally be free from these unjust charges. This will go some way towards repairing the significant and lasting harm that these homophobic laws had on Queenslanders,” said McPhee.

While consensual homosexual activity was decriminalised on 29 November 1990, convictions for those offences remain on people’s records today. These offences need to be disclosed even decades later when applying for a BlueCard, for government and other positions (such as a police officer), or a visa to travel overseas.

For those who have died with their convictions active, this service presents an opportunity for family members to restore dignity and respect to their memory and name.

Lee Carnie, a Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the service will help repair the harm caused by convictions leftover from when homosexual activity was illegal. The Human Rights Law Centre have been advocating for schemes across the country, and has been providing legal assistance to those with criminal convictions for a number of years.

“People should never have been criminalised because of who they are or who they love. This is a great step towards helping people whose love was criminalised by these unjust laws. Now, at least, the practical barriers imposed by these convictions can be removed,” said Carnie.

Queensland now joins Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and Tasmania in providing a system for people to clear their records of unjust convictions. NT is in the process of setting up a scheme and legislation is currently before the WA parliament.

The Human Rights Law Centre have been proud to work alongside a coalition of LGBTI community organisations which have lobbied for this reform for many years — including the LGBTI Legal Service, Queensland AIDS Council, Caxton Legal Centre, Brisbane Pride, Community Legal Centres Queensland and the Brisbane LGBTIQ Action Group.

To find out more information about how to apply for a conviction to be ‘expunged’ visit the Queensland Government website.

The LGBTI Legal Service encourages members of the community who wish to access the expungement scheme to get in touch. To make a confidential query or an appointment with the LGBTI Legal Service for assistance with an application visit here.

For people in other states requiring assistance please contact the Human Rights Law Centre.

For interviews or further information please call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519

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Transgender Marriage Equality Law Announced

Download this media release (PDF, 41.6 KB)

The LGBTI Legal Service celebrates the announcement by the Queensland Government of changes to be introduced to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2003 (Qld) this week.

This reform fixes a problematic section of the Act that states:

The reassignment of a person’s sex after sexual reassignment surgery may be noted in the person’s entry in the register of births or adopted children register only if the person is not married.

The LGBTI Legal Service provides free legal advice to Queensland’s LGBTI community on matters relating to their gender identity and sexuality.

The LGBTI Legal Service has provided advice to many transgender clients who were caught in this bizarre and destructive legal technicality.  Until now, we have sadly had to advise clients who want to pursue a change to their gender that they must first seek a divorce. Soon, transgender people will be able to stay married through their gender transition.

President of the LGBTI Legal Service, Matilda Alexander, commented:

Our clients are faced with an impossible choice between embracing their true gender identity by divorcing their supportive partner or continuing to live under the oppression of an official gender that does not match their identity but keeping their marriage.

This change demonstrates the continued journey towards marriage equality for the LGBTI community.  Last year, gay and lesbian Australians fought and won the right to equal love and the announcement will bring marriage equality to transgender people in Queensland as well.

The LGBTI Legal Service continues to call for further reforms of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2003 and the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 to continue these important steps towards equality in Queensland.

Contact: Matilda Alexander (President) – president@lgbtilegalservice.org

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Applications Open – Law Clerk/Administration Assistant

We are hiring! The LGBTI Legal Service seeks a Law Clerk/Administration Assistant at our Fortitude Valley (Brisbane) office on a casual basis to work two days per week. Please read the position description and selection criteria. Applications should be made by email to solicitor@lgbtilegalservice.org by COB on 9 February 2018.

For further details, please see the position description and selection criteria on our website or download this position description (PDF, 519.7 KB)

Apply now!

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LGBTI Legal Service announces new location

Australia’s only community legal centre that exists for the LGBTI community has a new name and new office!

New name and premises

The LGBTI Legal Service Inc., formerly known as the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Intersex Legal Service Inc., is excited to continue to provide free legal advice to Queensland’s LGBTI community from its new office at Level 2, 725 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley from 17 January 2018.

725 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley

 

Service delivery

The Service provides free legal advice and services to people facing legal problems relating to their identification as LGBTI or where they prefer to discuss their legal problems with a solicitor who has specific skills, interest and understanding of issues and barriers faced by the LGBTI community.

The Service’s free legal advice service includes advice on the following areas:

  • family law (separation/relationship breakdowns, children and property settlements);
  • domestic violence;
  • surrogacy and parental rights;
  • criminal law and victims’ support;
  • employment law (including unfair dismissal, workplace bullying and harassment);
  • unlawful discrimination;
  • gender identification; and
  • some civil law matters.

Persons who identify as LGBTI or who have a LGBTI-related legal issue who don’t know where to turn for legal advice or assistance may contact the Service on 07 3124 7160 or by email to mail@lgbtilegalservice.org. The Service offers free legal advice provided by experienced lawyers either face-to-face or by telephone, by appointment, on Wednesdays from 6.15 pm.

In particular cases, the Service may now also be able to take on case work and represent clients.

Christmas closure

The Service will be closed from midday on Friday, 22 December 2017 and will reopen on Wednesday, 3 January 2018.

Contact

Emile McPhee – Executive Director – director@lgbtilegalservice.org

(This media release was also published at http://communitylegalqld.org.au/node/2086)

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‘Like Love’ project reveals hotbed of hate speech throughout Marriage Survey period

The LGBTI Legal Service has collected over 220 examples of hate speech throughout the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey in a project aimed at addressing unlawful vilification.

The ‘Like Love’ project has monitored social media, news websites and public spaces to track public statements that incite ridicule or hatred on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity.

“Unfortunately, throughout the Marriage Law Postal Survey it has been virtually impossible for anyone who identifies as queer to avoid exposure to views which condemn who they are as a person,” said Matilda Alexander, President of the LGBTI Legal Service.

Source: ABS via abs.gov.au/…/AMLPS_survey_form.pdf (CC-BY 2.5 AU)

“The Postal Survey has opened the door to homophobia and vilification being expressed under the guise of legitimate debate.

“Instead of a legitimate debate, the LGBTI community has had to put up with weeks of destructive commentary which only takes society backwards on the progress which has lead to broader acceptance of LGBTI people in the last 30 years,” she explained.

The LGBTI Legal Service has received submissions of hate speech from community members as well as using project workers to monitor spaces.

The hate speech ranges from individual posts on social media pages to neo-Nazi groups plastering posters in various public locations.

The LGBTI Legal Service is now preparing a complaint under anti-discrimination laws.

Media contact

Matilda Alexander – president@lgbtilegalservice.org07 3124 7160

Download

Download this media release (PDF, 664.0 KB)

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Righting the wrongs of Queensland’s homophobic past: Government to allow to clear unjust convictions

Overnight, the Queensland Parliament passed a law that will provide a way for people to have convictions for consensual same-sex activity removed from their criminals records.

Emile McPhee, Executive Director of the LGBTI Legal Service, said the Criminal Law (Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement) Bill 2017 can assist to repair the lifelong trauma people have endured.

“The goal of those reforms is to ensure that individuals affected by those convictions or charges no longer need to disclose them in any circumstances and to go some way towards repairing the significant and lasting harm that these have had on Queenslanders,” said McPhee.

Phil Browne, Convenor of the Brisbane LGBTIQ Action Group said that it was important to recognise the lasting impact and suffering caused by the historic laws.

“Despite the Legalisation of Gay Sex Act 26 years ago, people with these convictions for consensual activity remain convicted criminals. They haven’t been able to apply for certain jobs or travel to certain countries. They may have endured public arrests leading to being fired, shunned by family and friends, kicked out of accommodation, named in newspapers, and even feeling they were run out of town,” said Browne.

With the new law Queensland joins Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT in providing a system for people to clear their records of unjust convictions.

Peter Black, Vice-President of the Queensland AIDS Council, said the old laws not only impacted upon the individuals convicted for consensual sexual activities, but also contributed to a political climate that sought to marginalise the LGBTIQ community.

“These wounds run deep, which is why it is vital that any expungement scheme be advertised and accessible to a particularly vulnerable cohort of people who have lived through decades of criminalisation, discrimination and stigma,’ said Black.

For those who have died with their convictions active, the reforms present an opportunity for families to restore dignity and respect to their memory and name.

Lee Carnie, a Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the Criminal Law (Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement) Bill 2017 will help repair the harms caused by convictions leftover from when homosexual activity was illegal.

“We welcome the Queensland Government’s important step to help people whose love was criminalised by unjust laws. It’s not only a symbolic win, it will also remove practical barriers imposed by these unfair convictions. This will allow people to move on with their lives. It’s great news, well done to all involved,” said Carnie.

While consensual homosexual activity was decriminalised on 29 November 1990, convictions for those offences remain on people’s records today. These offences need to be disclosed even decades later when applying for a BlueCard, government and other positions (such as a police officer), or a visa to travel overseas.

The LGBTI Legal Service has been proud to work alongside a coalition of LGBTI community organisations which have been lobbying for these reforms for many years — including the Human Rights Law Centre, Queensland AIDS Council, Caxton Legal Centre, Brisbane Pride, Community Legal Centres Queensland and the Brisbane LGBTIQ Action Group.

Case study: Alan’s story

One man convicted under Queensland’s old laws was Alan Raabe who was convicted of sexual assault in 1988 after he made an overture to a plain clothes police officer at a well know gay beat.

“Being a criminal offence of a sexual nature, I had to abandon any hope of gaining teacher registration in Queensland. I had studied to gain a qualification, but was advised not to proceed with even an application for registration,” said Raabe.

For further comments or queries please contact:

Emile McPhee, Executive Director, LGBTI Legal Service, 0438 766 176.

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