Balancing fairness and freedom in SA’s Equal Opportunity Laws

On 30 June 2016, the independent South Australian Law Reform Institute, based at the Adelaide University Law School, released its Report, ‘“Lawful Discrimination”: Exceptions under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of gender identity, sexual orientation and intersex status’.

This Report is part of the Institute’s wider reference to review legislative or regulatory discrimination against individuals and families on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or intersex status and draws on extensive consultation undertaken with the community and interested parties.

The Report suggests better balance is needed in South Australia’s equal opportunity laws and makes 11 Recommendations aimed at improving the State’s anti-discrimination laws to prevent students and employees being unfairly treated due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, while also respecting and protecting the rights of religious bodies to administer churches and schools in line with their religious beliefs.

The South Australian Premier, the Hon Jay Weatherill MP, commended the Institute’s latest Report:

‘I applaud the South Australian Law Reform Institute for the work they are doing to help improve our State’s anti-discrimination laws. South Australia has a rich, diverse community and I am committed to creating a fair and just society for those who call this great State home. To make this a reality, we need to ensure that discrimination is stamped out in our laws and the reports from the South Australian Law Reform Institute will help us do this. I will further consider the changes suggested in this report, including reforming exceptions made in the Equal Opportunity Act for religious bodies, religious-based schools and health-care practices.  As with the previous work done by the South Australian Law Institute, I will bring legislation based on this report to Parliament for its consideration. While I support the legislation, these matters are likely to be conscience issues for MPs.’

A discussion of the Report by Sarah Moulds can be found in InDaily, ‘How can SA balance fairness and freedom of religious beliefs?’.  Sarah Moulds is a Senior Project Officer with the South Australian Law Reform Institute and a PhD student in the University of Adelaide’s School of Law.

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