The Sex Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

Sexual orientation discrimination happens when a person is treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation because he or she has a sexual orientation towards persons of the same sex; persons of a different sex; or persons of the same sex and persons of a different sex.

Example: A male employee was not promoted to a more senior role because he is bisexual.

Same-sex couples are also protected from discrimination under the definition of ‘marital or relationship status’ in the Act.

Example: A company policy that offers benefits to an employee’s husband or wife, such as discounted travel or gym membership, may disadvantage employees with a same-sex partner because of their sexual orientation and/or relationship status.

Gender identity discrimination happens when a person is treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation because of that person’s gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of the person.

Example: A shop assistant refused to serve a person who identifies and presents as a woman because that person has a deep and masculine-sounding voice.

Intersex status discrimination happens when a person is treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation because that person has physical, hormonal or genetic features that are neither wholly female nor wholly male; a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male.

Example: A physiotherapist refused to treat an intersex person because the person’s biological characteristics made the physiotherapist uncomfortable.

The Act makes discrimination against the law in many areas of public life including, among others, employment; education; getting or using services; or renting or buying a house or unit. There are some limited exemptions.