Law Reform Gives Gays New Rights
[QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA] - Schools will no longer have the right to refuse employment to gay and lesbian teachers on the basis of their sexuality under a shake-up of anti-discrimination laws.
The laws, introduced to Queensland State Parliament yesterday, will allow people who have had sex change operations switch the gender shown on their birth certificate. And homosexuals living in a de facto relationship will be afforded the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.
The laws were introduced by Attorney-General Rod Welford without community consultation, triggering Opposition claims the Government was trying to sneak in radical social reform.
But Mr Welford said the Government was simply bringing Queensland into line with anti-discrimination laws in other states.
Homosexual support groups welcomed the changes but the Australian Family Association said the legislation would further erode the family unit.
Mr Welford said the Beattie Government wanted to ensure Queensland was a tolerant and fair society where the human dignity of all people was respected.
"Of course we're all entitled to be discriminating in who we choose as friends and who we choose to associate with and nothing in this legislation is about endorsing or condoning any particular lifestyle," Mr Welford said.
"What it means is that it's inappropriate for any of us to discriminate against people in the workplace or other aspects of their lives simply because of unjust reasons."
Opposition Leader Mike Horan said his MPs had not yet had a chance to examine the legislation.
Gay and Lesbian Welfare Association co-convenor Todd Buttery said it had been time for the legislative changes to be made.
"Queensland people are now ready to acknowledge the fact that their (homosexual) brothers, sisters, neighbours, doctors, lawyers and teachers are fantastic and there's no need to discriminate against them just because of their sexuality," Mr Buttery said.
"These laws are about being acknowledged as a human and to have the same rights as other people regardless of our sexuality."
Australian Transgender Support Association president Gina Mather said she had been lobbying successive state governments for a decade to make the changes.
"It's a major step forward to the quality of life for the girls because now they have equal access to what everyone else enjoys when they wake up in the morning," Ms Mather said.
Rainbow Labor Queensland co-convenor Chris Vernon said the Beattie Government should be congratulated on the changes which would cement the ALP as the only party in the state with the interests of gay and lesbian people in mind.
Australian Family Association Queensland president Arthur Hartwig said the changes showed bureaucracy had gone mad and would do nothing more than cheapen the institution of marriage.
Dr Hartwig said it would now be difficult to guarantee that homosexual teachers would not improperly influence their students.
"These are not law changes calculated to improve the moral standing of the community or the honesty, integrity and the status of the family within the community," Dr Hartwig said.