10 February 2022 – National LGBTIQ+ group Equality Australia has called on the Senate to remove the provisions of the Religious Discrimination Bill that override existing anti-discrimination protections and to strengthen changes to the Sex Discrimination Act to ensure they protect LGBTQ+ students and staff.
“Today is a day of mixed emotions for our community. While the House of Representatives voted for historic changes to the Sex Discrimination Act that will protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in religious schools, the House also voted to wind back existing discrimination protections for our communities and many others,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“Our laws should protect all of us, equally, regardless of who we are, whom we love or what we believe. But today, instead of seizing an opportunity to amend the Religious Discrimination Bill to raise the standard of protection for everyone, the House of Representatives voted to lower the standard for LGBTIQ+ people, women and people with disability”.
The passage of the Religious Discrimination Bill was accompanied by a separate Bill that added protections from discrimination for LGBTQ+ students at religious schools.
“Today, many young gay and trans people will wake up and feel like they belong, thanks to those MPs that stood on the courage of their convictions for equality. We are grateful for the strength of Liberal MPs Bridget Archer, Dave Sharma, Fiona Martin, Katie Allen and Trent Zimmerman, who crossed the floor, joining Labor, Adam Bandt, Andrew Wilkie, Helen Haines, Rebekha Sharkie and Zali Steggall to secure the protections,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“But it’s extremely disappointing that some of the same MPs did not take up the opportunity to also prevent the erosion of the hard-fought rights of LGBTIQ+ people, women, people with disability.”
Only Bridget Archer and Trent Zimmerman crossed the floor in support of Labor’s unsuccessful proposed amendment to Section 12 of the Religious Discrimination Bill, which would have prevented the override of existing anti-discrimination laws that protect people from offensive, degrading or demeaning speech.
Equality Australia said that the Senate must now amend the Religious Discrimination Bill to remove the provisions that override existing anti-discrimination protections and further amend the Sex Discrimination Act to ensure LGBTQ+ students, teachers and staff are protected from discrimination in religious schools.
“The responsibility now sits with the Senate to ensure the Religious Discrimination Bill does not take us backwards, and to ensure that the amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act that protect students are passed and similar protections also extended to teachers and other staff in religious schools” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“The Senate must now ensure that the standards of protection are raised for everyone, without undermining existing protections. This will require leadership from each of our elected representatives, and the conviction to stand up for laws that unite us, not divide us.
“If this cannot be achieved, we call on Labor, the cross bench and members of the government to vote the Bill down in its entirety.”
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