Strengthening existing legal protections for LGBTIQA+ Victorians and ensuring we create laws with an equity lens will benefit all community members. Laws free from discrimination that reflect who we are, are critical to creating a safe and inclusive community. They will help lay the foundations for an equal society.
The law matters
The law plays an important role in a range of areas of public life for LGBTIQA+ communities, as it does for all communities. All people in Victoria have the human rights detailed in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, including the right to recognition and equality under the law. But not all Victorian law treats LGBTIQA+ people the same as other Victorians.
‘While we tolerate laws that discriminate, we tolerate discrimination.’
Workshop participant, LGBTIQA+ Taskforce and Justice Working Group consultation
Not having equal rights or not making laws that ensure equal rights means LGBTIQA+ people can’t live with confidence that they get the same protections and opportunities as other people. For many in the LGBTIQA+ community, Victorian laws and legal institutions continue to be sources of trauma. This might be due to past wrongdoings, present inequalities or through a lack of recognition and inclusion.
We will look at relevant laws where previous policy decisions or unintended consequences have meant that LGBTIQA+ people have not received fair treatment. We will also ensure new laws are responsive to LGBTIQA+ experiences and potential impacts on LGBTIQA+ communities.
The law affects LGBTIQA+ people in different ways
For many in the LGBTIQA+ community, Victorian laws and legal institutions continue to be sources of trauma. This might be due to past wrongdoings, present inequalities or through a lack of recognition and inclusion. We also recognise that for Aboriginal people, Aboriginal lore, passed down through generations, is important to community life and setting social expectations.
It is important to understand that LGBTIQA+ experiences are not all the same. Many LGBTIQA+ people face intersecting and other inequalities under the law. An LGBTIQA+ person may also face racial or gendered discrimination under the law on top of discrimination based on their LGBTIQA+ identity. For example, although Aboriginal LGBTIQA+ people may have greater LGBTIQA+ equality under Victorian law in recent years, the journey towards Treaty is ongoing to seek to address past wrongs.
The work already underway
We have already started this important legal reform work including:
- banning harmful LGBTIQA+ change and suppression (conversion) practices
- allowing couples to adopt a child regardless of their sexuality or gender identity
- removing legal barriers for trans, gender diverse and intersex Victorians for birth certificates to reflect their gender identity
- narrowing and removing religious exceptions to discrimination.
The (I) am Equal: Future directions for Victoria’s Intersex community paper outlines a vision to uphold the human rights of people with intersex variations so they can achieve the best health and wellbeing outcomes. This includes developing a scheme to end deferrable and unnecessary medical interventions on people with an intersex variation without their personal consent.
‘We want to not have to talk about this stuff anymore.’
Workshop participant, people with an intersex variation consultation
The Government will deliver on its commitment to narrow religious exceptions under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 to better protect LGBTIQA+ students, teachers and staff. We will action our response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections. This included recommendations to extend anti-vilification protections to gender identity, sexual orientation and sex characteristics.
Applying an equity point of view
To realise the ambition of this priority area, we will look at relevant laws where previous policy decisions or unintended consequences have meant that LGBTIQA+ people have not received fair treatment. This will involve considering the impact laws have when being viewed from the perspective of gender, sexuality, sex characteristics and culture to help address all forms of discrimination that LGBTIQA+ people face. As we get to work on legal reforms, consulting with community will be critical.
We will also ensure new laws include LGBTIQA+ experiences and potential impacts on LGBTIQA+ communities. This will include developing an LGBTIQA+ justice action plan to guide the work of the Department of Justice and Community Safety.
Supporting legal changes
To have its intended impact, we will need to help pave the way for new laws. This includes reforms to build public understanding and awareness.
For example, under the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021, government funding supports the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to set up its civil response scheme. We are already working with faith-based groups and diverse communities to ensure resources are in place to help communities support survivors. Including change and suppression practices as an example of family violence under the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 and of harassment in the Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010 will strengthen the civil response scheme.
Actions we will deliver
- Deliver on the Government’s commitment to narrow religious exceptions under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010
- Reform anti-vilification laws to respond to the needs of LGBTIQA+ Victorians
- Implement the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021
- Support specialist legal services for LGBTIQA+ Victorians who experience discrimination and disadvantage associated with their sexuality or gender identity
- Develop and deliver the LGBTIQA+ Justice Action Plan to improve outcomes for LGBTIQA+ Victorians
- Deliver improved police responses to LGBTIQA+ communities, including implementing the Victorian Police LGBTIQA+ Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan and providing access to LGBTIQA+ awareness and sensitivity training for Victoria Police staff.
Signs of impact
To know we are on the right track to achieving equal rights and freedoms for LGBTIQA+ Victorians, this priority area will see actions that support LGBTIQA+ communities to feel safe in their everyday lives.
LGBTIQA+ Victorians will know and understand their rights and have safe avenues to resolve issues when they arise. LGBTIQA+ Victorians will have autonomy over their bodies and the law will reflect and protect their gender and sexuality. By achieving these things, we can help drive down LGBTIQA+ experiences of discrimination from 34.2 per cent1. This statistic compares with 15.6 per cent of the general Victorian population2.
Recognition matters – making birth certificates inclusive
In August 2019 the Victorian Parliament passed amendments to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996. Amendments allow people in Victoria to change the record of sex shown on their birth certificate without having to undergo gender reassignment surgery. This legislative reform came after years of advocacy from trans and gender diverse (TGD) communities and their allies.
‘Having ID that matches our identity is vital for the health and wellbeing of trans and gender diverse people’
Isabelle, transgender community member, 16 at the time of the legislative change
The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) convened an Implementation Advisory Group of key people from the TGD community and their allies to guide the rollout. The definition of ‘relevant person’ who can support applications for those under 18 years wanting to change their birth certificate was broadened. This happened because of advocacy from the group and the community – in particular young people.
This means that young TGD people can seek support for their application from people who they know and are comfortable with. It ensures that more young people can have their gender reflected and respected.
Since 1 May 2020 Victorians have been able to apply to change the record of sex on their birth certificate under the reforms. To mark the occasion, BDM commissioned cartoonist Judy Horacek to create the artwork for a Rainbow Commemorative Birth Certificate. Although it was designed for LGBTIQA+ families, it can be chosen by any family to celebrate the birth of their child.
These reforms have been welcomed across LGBTIQA+ communities. When Transgender Victoria conducted annual ‘Change Your ID Days’ to provide support for TGD people, the St Kilda Legal service helped out. VicBears also donated money so anyone could get help to change their birth certificate.
‘…now my ID reflects my identity – now I can apply for a job, or a Medicare card without fear. It means I won’t be outed to everyone who sees my ID documents.’
Isabelle, transgender community member
As at 17 January 2022, since the birth certificate changes came into effect, 920 Victorian-born people have had their birth certificate updated to reflect their gender. The rollout shows the importance of continued community engagement – to make sure reforms are delivered for and with communities from start to finish.
 Victorian Agency for Health Information (VAHI) 2020, The health and wellbeing of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer population in Victoria: findings from the Victorian Population Health Survey 2017, State of Victoria, Melbourne.