Australian lesbian, gay and/or transgender people and the law
Riggs, Damien Wayne
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Notionally the law is designed to protect people from harm or stigma (Posner 2002): it can of course do the opposite. While, as this chapter outlines, laws in Australia have increasingly become inclusive of lesbians, gay men and/or transgender people, this is only a relatively recent development in Australian law, and there is a much longer history of the law endorsing the marginalisation of these populations.1 For social workers, this means two things. Firstly, given the relationship between the law and social norms (where laws reflect social norms as much as they shape them), it is likely that historically many in the social work profession may have been complicit with the marginalisation of lesbians, gay men and/or transgender people. This might have been implicitly (i.e., by failing to challenge stereotypes or discrimination against lesbians, gay men and/or transgender people) or explicitly (i.e., by endorsing the marginalisation of lesbians, gay men and/or transgender people including in social work practice). Given the relatively slow and recent change in Australian laws related to lesbians, gay men and/or transgender people, it is possible that some social work practitioners continue to hold uninformed or discriminatory attitudes towards these populations, a fact that this chapter attempts to address through the provision of information about current laws and their impact upon these populations.