Date: 
Tuesday 18 September 2012

The Australian Human Rights Commission considers that the fundamental human rights principle of equality means that civil marriage should be available, without discrimination, to all couples, regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, Commission President Professor Gillian Triggs said today.

“The parliamentary vote on marriage equality this week gives federal Parliament the opportunity to take another step towards equality for people who are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, sex and/or gender identity,” Professor Triggs said.

Releasing a Commission position paper on marriage equality ahead of this week’s parliamentary vote on the issue, she said that removing the prohibition on civil marriage for same-sex couples was the next step toward legislative equality with opposite-sex couples.

Professor Triggs said while the federal Parliament’s 2008 amendments to Commonwealth legislation removed discrimination against same sex couples and their children in relation to financial and work-related entitlements and benefits, equality was still not a reality for many Australians.

“These 2008 reforms were a significant step towards equality for people in same-sex relationships but the Marriage Act continues to discriminate against same-sex couples by explicitly excluding them from the opportunity to have their relationship formally recognised under federal law.”

She said the Commission remained concerned that the discrimination, social exclusion and homophobia experienced by Australians on the basis of their sexual orientation, sex and or gender identity, contributed to negative health and social outcomes, sometimes with tragic results.

“As long as inequalities remain in our laws, we increase the potential for discrimination and prejudice to damage the lives of Australians,” she said.

“Allowing people the choice to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation, sex and or gender identity, would be an important step on the path to full equality for people in same-sex relationships.”

The Commission's position paper on marriage equality is available at www.humanrights.gov.au/human_rights/marriage_equality/index.html

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Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597

Up to the minute information on human rights is now available on twitter at twitter.com/AusHumanRights.