Gender-Natural

Sexual Orientation, Gender and Intersex Discrimination


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.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA) makes it unlawful to treat people less favourably than another person in a similar situation 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 that person has a sexual orientation towards:

  • persons of the same sex, or
  • persons of a different sex, or
  • persons of the same sex and persons of a different sex.

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

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. It does not matter what sex a person was assigned at birth or whether the person has undergone any medical intervention.

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.

The SDA also includes protection against discrimination on the basis of sex, pregnancy, breastfeeding, marital status and family responsibilities, as well as protection from sexual harassment. For more information see Sex discrimination at www.humanrights.gov.au/employers.

The SDA protects people across Australia from sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status discrimination in a number of areas in public life, including employment, education, getting or using services, or renting or buying a house or unit.

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