Submission to the Anti-Discrimination (Right to Use Gender-Specific Language) Amendment Bill 2018 Inquiry

Caxton Legal Centre recently made a submission to the Queensland Parliament Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee on the Anti-Discrimination (Right to Use Gender-Specific Language) Amendment Bill 2018.

The submission reads:

Caxton routinely provides advice and representation to complainants and respondents in matters that fall under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991. In the 2017/18 financial year Caxton provided 180 advice and representation services to clients concerning discrimination.

Caxton does not consider that it is necessary to amend the Act in the way proposed by the Bill and we do not support the introduction of the Bill.

The preamble to the Anti-Discrimination Act provides that Parliament enacted the Act for the promotion of opportunity for everyone by protecting them from unfair discrimination in certain areas of activity and from sexual harassment and certain objectionable conduct.

The Act achieves this objective by prohibiting unlawful direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of 15 attributes, including sex, gender identity and sexuality.

The Bill effectively seeks to treat the ‘use of gender specific language’ as a protected attribute.

All attributes protected in the current Act were included to ensure protection of the human rights of particular groups of people who do not fully enjoy their fundamental rights in public life and are more vulnerable to human rights violations.

Those in our society who wish to use gender specific language do not have any particular vulnerability which requires protection. In fact, the promotion of such a ‘right’ is likely to expose those people with the attribute of gender identity or who are transgender, gender diverse or intersex to increased discrimination.

In our experience, the use of gendered language (such as pronouns), which does not accord with the gender identity of transgender and gender diverse people is a persistent feature in many of their lives. In our view, the inadvertent use of an incorrect gender pronoun will not amount to unlawful discrimination. However, deliberate and persistent mis-gendering of a transgender or gender diverse person causes significant harm.

The Act should not be amended to promote conduct which could cause significant harm to a vulnerable group which the Act also seeks to protect.

Read the complete submission here.