Australia: Victory! Sweeping Legal Reform In Western Australia

SUMMARY

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission joins Gay and Lesbian Equality (Western Australia) in commending state Parliament of Western Australia for its recent passage of sweeping legal reform related to sexual orientation. With the passage of the Acts Amendment (Lesbian and Gay) Law Reform Bill 2001, Western Australia, according to activistgs, no longer lags far behind other Australian states in its recognition of rights on the basis of sexual orientation, but rather sets a progressive example. This bill contains measures that equalize the age of consent for all persons at 16 years; repeal the Gross Indecency Law, which targeted male-male sexual activity in public places; include sexual orientation as a protected category in the State's Equal Opportunity Act of 1984; provide access to adoption and in vitro fertilization treatment for same-sex couples; and grant additional rights to same-sex couples. The forwarded message below from Gay and Lesbian Equality (Western Australia) provides further details.

FORWARDED MESSAGE

From Brendon Entrekin, Gay and Lesbian Equality (Western Australia)

Hi,

I thought I'd let you know that the Western Australian Parliament has just passed the biggest gay and lesbian law reform Bill in Australian history, which is about to receive the Royal Assent.

Included in the Bill are measures that:

  • Equalise the age of consent at 16 for everyone (previously it was 21 for male-male sex and 16 for everything else);
  • Repeal the Decriminalisation of Sodomy Act 1989, which contains a preamble that states the Western Australian Parliament's disapproval of homosexuality and a 'proselytising' clause that is based on Britain's Section 28, and attempts to prohibit the promotion or encouragement of homosexuality;
  • Repeal the archaic Gross Indecency Law - that only applies to male-male sexual activity in a public place;
  • Include Sexual Orientation in the State's Equal Opportunity Act 1984, prohibiting discrimination against homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual people in employment, education, accommodation, sale of land, club membership, sporting associations, professional associations, trade unions and access to goods and services;
  • Allow same-sex couples and single people to adopt children (the first State in Australia to allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt);
  • Allow lesbians and single women who are infertile access to IVF treatment (they already have access to other reproductive procedures);
  • Allow a same-sex couple to be jointly registered as the birth parents of a child born through artificial conception to one of the women in a same-sex relationship;
  • Recognise same-sex couples for inheritance, State Superannuation (State public servants only), State Parliamentary superannuation and disclosure responsibilities, cremation decisions and human tissue transplant decisions; and other associated changes.

A further Bill is being introduced in a few months that will amend all other Acts and Regulations in Western Australia to recognise same-sex couples for all legal rights afforded to married and heterosexual common-law couples.

A Bill is also in Parliament that will allow same-sex couples access to the Family Court for property disputes and custody matters on the breakdown of a relationship. All other States and Territories of Australia come under federal legislation in relation to the Family Court, and same-sex couples are therefore generally denied access as the federal Howard Government has refused to extend access. Western Australia will be in a unique position to allow same-sex couples access to the Family Court due to it being the only State in Australia with its own Family Court legislation.

You can access the Bill that has just passed at www.parliament.wa.gov.au in the "Bills" section. It is the first Bill listed - the Acts Amendment (Lesbian and Gay) Law Reform Bill 2001. The Family Court Amendment Bill 2001 is also listed there.

This is the single largest gay and lesbian law reform Bill in Australian history and will take Western Australia from being the worst State in Australia for gay and lesbian human rights, to the best.

The legislation was passed by the Labor Government (elected last year in Western Australia), with the support of the Greens in the Upper House. A few dozen supporters burst into applause as they left the Legislative Council (Upper House) when the Bill passed on 21 March 2002.

The conservative Opposition have said they will repeal aspects of the legislation if they win the next election in 2005, but have not outlined exactly what provisions they would repeal.

This is very good news for Western Australia.

Many thanks,

Brendon Entrekin
Vice-Convenor
Gay and Lesbian Equality (WA)
http://www.galewa.asn.au