By Leon Harrison
PERTH — A bill to outlaw discrimination against gays and lesbians in WA was defeated on September 18. As a result, it remains legal to discriminate against homosexuals in employment, housing and provision of public services.
WA and Tasmania remain the only states in which discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is legal.
Attorney general Peter Foss said the state government would not extend anti-discrimination laws to homosexuals. Foss said that the right of people to discriminate against homosexuals was more important than the right of homosexuals to equal treatment.
"Is homosexuality so important in our community that we need to invade the rights of those people who, on religious and other grounds, find it anathema ... to say, notwithstanding your firm beliefs, we believe this is so important we will override your civil liberties and we will require you to ignore your beliefs?", Foss asked.
Foss went on to say that homosexuality was not in the same class as discrimination on the grounds of marriage, race, disability or age, which are barred under the Equal Opportunity Act.
He concluded by stating that homosexuality should be tolerated but that extending anti-discrimination laws would be perceived as encouraging it.
In a similar vein, Premier Richard Court told the Legislative Assembly that he did not think it was necessary to legislate to prevent discrimination against homosexuals.
Kenwick Labor MLA Judyth Watson criticised the government's stand during debate on the bill in the Legislative Assembly. She stated that WA homosexuals had been evicted from their homes, refused jobs and denied bank loans.
Brian Greig, spokesperson for Gay and Lesbian Equality, said that 115 complaints were turned away from Equal Opportunity Commission last year because discrimination against homosexuals was legal in WA.
Greig said that he was told that the bill would not be passed because a state election was due this year. "We have been agitating for reform for 10 years, and we are always told it is not the right time. I can't understand the argument that human rights are not important before an election."