On 6 December 2016, the independent South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) hosted an event at the Adelaide Law School to thank the many individuals, organisations and law students who have generously supported and contributed to the Institute’s most recent reference. That reference asked SALRI to examine the South Australian laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or intersex status. The event was attended by the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, the Hon Ian Hunter, the shadow Attorney-General, Ms Vicki Chapman and the Hon Kelly Vincent.
The Institute particularly acknowledged the valuable contributions of lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex South Australians, many of whom shared personal experiences of discrimination with the Institute in an effort to improve the law in South Australia. These contributions informed and assisted the four reports prepared by the Institute, commencing with a comprehensive Audit Report, followed by follow up reports on issues relating to the legal recognition of sex and gender, the legal recognition of relationships and parenting rights, and the protections and exceptions in anti-discrimination law.
The consultation undertaken by the Institute, which included community roundtable discussions, online forums and traditional written submissions, sparked broader community conversations about how to ensure that LGBTIQ South Australians are not ignored by or discriminated against under the law.
The Institute’s work has highlighted the importance to modern law reform of genuine and inclusive community consultation. The Institute’s Reports have also included wide research and evidence based reforms. The Institute has been assisted by the students of the Law School’s Law Reform class. The reforms recommended by the Institute, drawing on interstate developments, included the establishment of a relationships register for South Australia (open to both heterosexual and non-heterosexual couples), a new framework for changing sex or gender on the Births Deaths and Marriages Register and non-discriminatory access to fertility treatments and parenting rights for all couples.
The Institute’s work has been commended by both the Government and Opposition and its recommendations reflected in several Bills now passed by the South Australian Parliament.
The Institute notes the historic apology issued by Premier, the Hon Jay Weatherill MP, to the LGBTIQ community in Parliament on Thursday 1 December 2016.
The Premier told the Parliament that:
“When our laws discriminate against a particular group of people, it sends a message that this prejudice written into law justifies treating people differently in our day-to-day lives. Such laws do not affect only the LGBTIQ community, they diminish our society as a whole. They diminish us by saying effectively that there are certain people who deserve to be treated differently, whose relationships are worth less, whose families should not exist, who are not entitled to the same fundamental rights as their neighbour.” [HANSARD, Page 8314 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY Thursday, 1 December 2016]
Supporting the motion put by the Premier, and supporting the apology to LGBTIQ South Australians, the Opposition Leader, Mr Marshall, called upon:
“…all South Australians to do their part to help right the wrongs of the past. Promoting tolerance and respect does not stop here on North Terrace. We all have a role to play in ensuring that members of the LGBTIQ community in South Australia and beyond feel safe, valued and equal in society.” [HANSARD Page 8316 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY Thursday, 1 December 2016]
Both the Premier and Mr Marshall praised the work of the Institute.