We know that people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) communities continue to face discrimination in many areas of life, despite decades of equal opportunity laws in Victoria. This is why the Commission works to raise awareness of the issues central to the LGBTI community. The Commission:
- works with rights holders to have a targeted impact
- works with duty holders to have a systemic impact
- leads the community conversation to help everyone take action and support equality.
What are my rights?
The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 makes it against the law to discriminate against a person on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. It is also against the law to discriminate against someone because of their lawful sexual activity and physical features. For more information about the law see:
- Discrimination – Gender identity, lawful sexual activity, sexual orientation discrimination
- The workplace – Gender identity, lawful sexual activity, sexual orientation discrimination
Sexual harassment is also against the law under the Equal Opportunity Act.
Making a complaint about discrimination
If you feel you have been discriminated against, sexually harassed or victimised, you or someone one your behalf can make a complaint to the Commission.
We will help resolve your complaint through our free, fair, timely dispute resolution service.You can also make an application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to have a Tribunal Member decide whether there has been discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation.
Examples of matters resolved at the Commission through conciliation
Sexual orientation in goods and services
While ordering food from a fast food outlet, a staff member referred to the complainant using a homophobic term of abuse. The staff member continued to refer to the customer by this term out loud and wrote the homophobic term on his meal.
When contacted about the complaint, the respondent agreed to attend a conciliation conference. At conciliation, the complaint was resolved, without admission of liability, with an agreement to pay the complainant $1000 compensation, a $1000 donation to a charity and run equal opportunity training for staff.
A note on language and terminology
The Commission respects diversity of all kinds. We acknowledge the significance of language. The use of particular words can be empowering or disempowering. We also acknowledge that the use of terminology is contested and can change over time. (The Victorian Government has an inclusive language guide.)
The Commission has created this section of its website to make information about LGBTI rights issues more accessible to the community. In doing so, we also want to acknowledge that LGBTI people form a diverse group and are subject to different discrimination and human rights issues. In particular, equality issues relating to trans and intersex people can be very different to those relating to sexual orientation.
However, we are mindful that some trans and intersex people feel strongly about the benefits of affiliation with the gay, lesbian and bisexual community. For this reason, and because of its use internationally, the Commission has used the initialism 'LGBTI' which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex.
These are not all terms that appear in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. Depending on their circumstances, people may find a range of protections from discrimination on the basis of sex, physical features, lawful sexual activity, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.
We acknowledge that some of the terms and definitions used in the Equal Opportunity Act do not reflect the way people identify and, in the case of intersex status, do not separately protect the attribute. This is an issue for the Victorian Parliament to consider, noting more recent advances in federal anti-discrimination law.
We also acknowledge that sex, physical characteristics, sexual orientation and gender identity is only one aspect of a person's total identity. Other parts of the Commission's website will also be relevant to members of the LGBTI community.
Frequently asked LGBTI questions
Is it discrimination to provide special services to meet the needs of LGBTI people?
No. Not all forms of discrimination are against the law. The Equal Opportunity Act allows people to be treated differently in a range of circumstances where Parliament has decided that there is a good reason for this. One of these areas is where people from particular groups have special needs.
Special needs and welfare services
The Equal Opportunity Act allows for a person to establish special services, benefits or facilities that meet the special needs of people with a particular characteristic (such as sex, sexual orientation or gender identity), and may limit eligibility for these services to people with the particular characteristic. Aperson does not unlawfully discriminate against someone by establishing these special services.The Act also allows for employment to be limited to people with a particular characteristic where the employer provides services that are for the special needs of a particular group and where the services can be provided most effectively by people with that characteristic.
Example: In a 2013 matter, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal considered an application from the Victorian AIDS Council for a temporary exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. The Council wanted to advertise for and employ only gay men in the roles of peer counsellor, registered nurse and receptionist. The Tribunal found that a temporary exemption was not necessary because the conduct was already allowed under the section 28 exception to support welfare services.
The Equal Opportunity Act also allows people and organisations to take positive steps to help disadvantaged groups by using special measures. Special measures are not unlawful discrimination and do not require an exemption from the operation of the Act. An example of a special measure is a person establishing a counselling service to provide counselling for gay men and lesbians who are victims of family violence, and whose needs are not met by general family violence counselling services.Find out more on our exceptions, exemptions and special measures webpage.