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Image for Bill to ensure gays aren't turned away from aged care

Bill to ensure gays aren'tturned away from aged care

The Federal Government has finally acceded to overwhelming support for protecting same-sex couples from discrimination by Aged Care facilities funded by the Commonwealth.

The Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler announced yesterday that the Government was intending to move amendments to its own Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill (SDA Bill).

The amendment would stop religious organisations from being able to discriminate against same sex couples when providing Commonwealth-funded aged care services.

Similar protection for same sex couples against discrimination by Commonwealth-funded aged care services was provided for in the broad-ranging Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, but the government dumped that bill in March this year and introduced the SDA Bill instead.

We think there should be legal protection that ensures discrimination cannot occur.”

At the time, the Attorney-General in his press conference said it was still government policy to include the protection, but did not explain why it was not included in the Sex Discrimination Amendment.

Despite this omission, there remained wide support for protecting same sex couples from discrimination by Commonwealth-funded aged care providers. The National LGBTI Health Alliance and the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby continued to put forward submissions to the current Senate inquiry into the SDA bill. The Law Council of Australia noted concerns which were also raised by the Australian Human Rights Commission, that “the Bill fails to ensure that that amended Sex Discrimination Act will provide protection against discrimination … in the area of … aged care services, including by religious providers.”

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has noted that in some areas of Australia there is very limited choice of aged care service providers, so individuals may not always be able to choose a non-religious service provider should they so wish.

Minister Butler says that “while most aged care service providers are accepting of residents regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, we think there should be legal protection that ensures such discrimination cannot occur.”

“When such services are provided with tax payer dollars, it is not appropriate for providers to discriminate in the provision of those services.”

HOW THE BILL MIGHT PROGRESS

The Greens are expected to support the Government’s amendment, ensuring its passage through the Senate.

The bill would then need to go back to the House of Representatives to confirm the amendment was supported by the House. Here the Government which has 70 votes without the speaker Anna Burke, needs the support of the Greens’ Adam Bandt, plus four of the five independents, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, Andrew Wilkie, Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson, none of whom spoke on the bill when it went through the House of Representatives.

The Shadow Attorney-General Senator Brandis said that “the Coalition considers the SDA Bill as implementing Coalition policy which we announced before the 2010 election.”

When asked about whether the Coalition would support the Government’s recent announced amendment, a spokesperson for Senator Brandis said that the Coalition is expected to form a view on the proposed amendment when the Coalition party room meets on Tuesday 18 June.

The SDA bill which did not include the Government’s amendment passed the House of Representatives yesterday at midday and is due to be debated in the final fortnight of Senate sitting beginning 17 June, which is also when the Senate inquiry is due to report.

Opposition spokesperson for the Shadow Attorney-General in the House of Representatives Michael Keenan ominously gave a caveat to the Coalition’s support for the bill and made reference to possible Coalition amendments.

As the bill was due to pass, Keenan put on the public record in the Federation Chamber of Parliament: “While the coalition supports the passage of this bill through the House, I wish to note that amendments may be moved in the Senate following the report of the Senate committee. I understand that there are some conversations ongoing between the two parties on this.”

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Little Gay Blog

Little Gay Blog said on the 31st May, 2013

This is the right thing to do. Any organisation that receives Commonwealth (i.e. taxpayer - including gay taxpayer) funding, should not be allowed to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Asherbella

Asherbella said on the 2nd Jun, 2013

Gay senior citizens deserve the right to safe, affordable residential aged care services when they retire.

Being gay is not a crime, it isn't a disorder, nor is it a disease. Being gay is a state of being.

The elderly in our society have worked hard throughout their lives, and, regardless of their sexuality, have earned the right to live freely from discrimination - especially from right-wing Christian groups who would deny them a place to live.

RJRS

RJRS said on the 12th Jun, 2013

And not before time, it should also cover LGBTI staff who apply for positions within "church" organisations and schools.
Any organisation which receives tax payer funds either state of federal should not be able to claim exemption anti discrimination legislation.
This is at least a beginning.