9 February 2022 – National LGBTIQ+ group, Equality Australia, has responded to Federal Labor’s announcement it will table amendments to the flawed Religious Discrimination Bill but called on the Parliament to ensure teachers are also protected in religious schools.
“The ALP has today demonstrated that it is listening to the concerns of the Australian community, putting forward a proposal that addresses one of the key concerns with the Religious Discrimination Bill and reaffirming its commitment to protecting LGBTQ+ students in religious schools, said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“These amendments won’t fix everything, but amending section 12 would ensure existing protections for LGBTIQ+ people, women and people with disability are not undermined.
“These changes should be supported, but the Parliament needs to go further to fix the remaining problems with the Bill, including removing Section 11, the provisions overriding state discrimination protections on the basis of religious belief.
“The Government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill is broken and flawed. In its current form, it would take us backwards. It would wind back hard-fought rights for women, people with disability, LGBTIQ+ people and people of faith, while compromising judgement-free access to healthcare, and safe and inclusive schools and workplaces.
“If the Government will not go back to the drawing board to deliver laws that protect all of us, equally, it is the Parliament’s job to ensure the Bill does not take us backwards.
“The ALP’s proposed amendments to the Religious Discrimination Bill and the Sex Discrimination Act pave part of the way to ensuring that the standards of protection are raised for everyone, without undermining existing protections. It is now up to the Parliament to complete this job. If they are unable to do so, Parliament should vote the Bill down”
Equality Australia particularly welcomes the amendments to the Religious Discrimination Bill designed to:
- remove overrides of existing anti-discrimination laws that prevent offensive, degrading and demeaning speech
- ensure that qualifying bodies can effectively regulate members of their profession and maintain public trust and confidence
- respond to calls by Muslim and other minority faith communities for protections against hate speech
- ensure that in-home aged care providers cannot discriminate based on religion against the people who rely on their services.
Equality Australia also welcomed the proposed changes to the Sex Discrimination Act that would protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in religious schools, and called on Labor to also move amendments to ensure that teachers and staff at faith-based schools cannot be fired or otherwise discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Students, teachers and staff at religious schools deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter who they are, whom they love or what they believe,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“While the amendments to protect LGBTQ+ students from being expelled or otherwise discriminated against at religious schools would be a significant step, the same protections must apply to teachers.”
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