NATIONAL AFFAIRS by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Human Rights Commission backs same-sex marriage
, July 4, 2015
In its latest report, Resilient Individuals: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Intersex Rights, the Human Rights Commission has called on the federal government to legalise same-sex marriage promptly, calling the existing law “state-sanctioned structural discrimination … which has flow-on impacts in legitimising institutional and interpersonal discrimination.”
The report was launched by a Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson. In his introductory message, Mr Wilson said: “I have also taken on the role as the de facto SOGII Commissioner at the commission to ensure that LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex] people have a voice.”
As Mr Wilson is a well-known homosexual who has supported same-sex marriage, is it appropriate that he should, in his capacity as a member of the Human Rights Commission, promote a cause in which he has a personal interest?
There is a long-standing principle in both public administration and the corporate world that one should disqualify oneself from public advocacy on matters in which there is a personal or financial interest.
Mr Wilson has chosen not to follow this convention.
If Mr Wilson had chosen to campaign for same-sex marriage in a private capacity, and not as a Commissioner for Human Rights, there would have been no issue.
It is surprising that Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs should have allowed this to occur.
Professor Triggs is a law professor and former dean of the Faculty of Law at Melbourne University. She is therefore well aware of the conventions surrounding political controversy, just as she is aware that judges are required to disqualify themselves from sitting on any matter in which they have a personal interest.
The report’s claim that marriage between a man and a woman is discriminatory towards same-sex people reveals a basic misunderstanding of marriage itself.
As societies have recognised from time immemorial, marriage is the public commitment of a man and a woman. Its public purpose is to create a stable, recognised environment in which a couple can raise children. To define it otherwise is to assert that marriage is the same as a partnership or a relationship.
One recommendation of the report which will be generally accepted is its aim of “reducing the unacceptably high rates of violence against LGBTI people”.
While Australians generally support tolerance towards people with different sexual orientations, the Human Rights Commission goes far beyond toleration, urging that the education system should promote this agenda, and that young people under the age of 18 should have “access to hormone treatment” to change their sexual identity.
The report also urges that “all states and territories legislate to require that a self-identified legal declaration, such as a statutory declaration, is sufficient proof to change a person’s gender for the purposes of government records and proof of identity documentation”.
The report also recommended that “Victoria complete the repeal of section 19A of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) that creates a dedicated criminal provision for HIV”. This is the law that made it a crime for a person with HIV to have sexual intercourse without telling the other person. It has since been repealed, but an offence of inflicting grievous bodily harm remains.
The report also made the extraordinary recommendation that “all states and territories should remove the requirement that married couples get divorced in order for one partner that is transitioning their gender to have it acknowledged on official documentation”.
The report also wants taxpayers to fund people who undergo sex-change operations. It called for “the establishment of a trans-specific policy stream across the health system to ensure that trans people [i.e. those undergoing sex-change operations] do not face bureaucratic barriers to accessing health care, including:
• the potential for rebates for necessary pharmaceutical and surgical treatments consistent with rebates enjoyed by all other Australians, [and]
• standardised treatment access and commencement policy for hormone therapy and gender affirmation procedures across state and territories.”
The commission also called for information about sexual health for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender and intersex people to be included in the National Schools Curriculum, where it will be studied in both government and non-government schools.
The report is based on a series of consultations held by the Human Rights Commission with people who identify as homosexual or lesbian, and it is certainly right that the commission take up the case for people who have been victims of unjust discrimination.
However, the commission has failed to understand that the interests of these people should not be put ahead of the interests of the wider community, and there should be no obligation on the community to support or bankroll alternative lifestyles.