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Same-sex rights: Australia’s progress

By April 23, 2019February 23rd, 2024No Comments

Despite Australia having legalised same-sex marriage two years ago, and our country being regarded as leading the way in the Asia-Pacific region on equality for LGBTIQ couples, there are still a number of areas where Australia is debating necessary reforms to ensure same-sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Australia is one of 28 countries around the world that have now legalised gay marriage (check out this overview of same-sex marriage around the world). But there is a long way to go for many countries in terms of LGBTIQ rights. Recent anti-gay developments in Brunei have shocked the world, but even countries we consider more ‘Westernised’ continue to make life difficult for LGBTIQ people. For example, in Japan, a transgender person must first undergo sterilisation surgery and be diagnosed with a mental disorder before being able to marry their partner.

Here, lawmakers continue to fine-tune legislation impacting on LGBTIQ people. In Western Australia, for instance, the recent results of a state government-commissioned independent review into assisted reproductive technology and surrogacy legislation found that current legislation discriminates against LGBTIQ couples because male same-sex couples are unable to access surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology. There are now calls to update the state’s 25-year old reproductive technology legislation.

In another development, Labor has now announced its plan to ban ‘gay conversion therapy’ if elected – the first time a federal party has made a pledge of this kind (Victoria has recently announced its own plans for a state ban on the practice).  ‘Gay conversion therapy’ is the term which is applied to attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender and sexual expression. To ban ‘gay conversion therapy’, parliament will need to pass legislation with the approval of the Council of Australian Governments.

The Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus now says: “Practitioners of [conversion therapy] insist that LGBTIQ people can be ‘cured’.  There is no valid scientific evidence to support this and the practice has been widely condemned by health professionals and by the Australian Medical Association. Labor believes that no one should be subjected to painful, unnecessary and harmful pseudoscientific practices.”

Not only can LGBTIQ people not be ‘cured’, but research shows that the ‘therapy’ is associated with depression and suicidal ideation and attempts, as well as less educational attainment and lower weekly income.

However, and perhaps contrary to popular belief, ‘conversion therapy’ is still happening in Australia today, but has “become a little bit more underground in how it’s conducted”.

In fact last year, the Human Rights Law Centre, Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria and La Trobe University released a report which found that conversion therapy is currently still being advertised in more than 10 organisations across Australia and New Zealand.

Outlawing the practice would be an important step in the right direction for same-sex equality.

Do you need assistance with a separation or divorce? We can advise you on the most efficient way to resolve your joint affairs, no matter how complex. We also assist with drafting Binding Financial Agreements (“pre-nups”) for same-sex couples planning to marry (or “post-nups” for those already married).  Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.


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