Media Release: “Raise the standard for everyone” – Equality Australia calls on all parties to commit to discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in religious organisations
16 May 2022 – National LGBTIQ+ group, Equality Australia, has called on whoever forms government this election to act swiftly to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in religious organisations, saying that any move to strengthen protections for people of faith must not wind back existing protections for other groups.
“Every person in Australia deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and to work, study and access services without fear of discrimination,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“But it remains legal under federal law for religious schools and other faith-based organisations to discriminate against students, teachers, staff and people accessing services simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“These laws are out of step with 21st century community expectations and the practices of many faith-based organisations who have diverse workforces and seek to treat people with dignity and respect.
“Whoever forms government this election must act swiftly to wind back these outdated carve-outs the Sex Discrimination Act to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students, teachers, other staff and people accessing services in religious organisations.”
The Coalition recently committed to bring its controversial Religious Discrimination Bill back to parliament unamended as standalone legislation should it be returned to government, and Labor indicated it would also progress legislation to protect people of faith from discrimination.
“Our laws should protect all of us, equally, no matter who we are, whom we love or what we believe”, said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“But the Religious Discrimination Bill proposed by the Morrison Government would wind back hard-fought protections for women, LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability and even people of faith, undermining inclusive workplaces and access to judgement-free healthcare.
“While Labor’s statements are a welcome indication they are committed to ensuring any protections for people of faith do not result in discrimination against others, we call on all sides of politics to commit to ensuring that any reform will raise the standard for everyone and will not override existing protections, and to act swiftly to fill gaps in protection for LGBTIQ people.”
The organisation addressed the Prime Minister’s claim that there was “no evidence” gay students were being expelled from religious schools, saying that students need urgent protection not just from expulsion, but from discrimination at school.
“Despite recent shocking examples of discrimination in religious schools, last year we saw the Morrison Government withdraw its own Bill after it was amended to strengthen protections for all LGBTQ+ students, and now the Prime Minister is downplaying the need for such protections at all”, said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“There are many ways a student can be discriminated against at school, including expulsion, being treated differently than other students, suspension, unfair discipline or detention.
“We’ve worked with students that have been forced to leave under pressure from school administrators, students that have been sent to damaging conversion practices without their parent’s knowledge or consent, and whose teachers have refused to acknowledge their gender and physically dragged a girl who is trans into the ‘boys’ group.”
Labor is yet to commit to a timeframe to protect LGBTQ+ students in religious schools should it form government, and the Prime Minister has indicated it will only progress protections for students after the Religious Discrimination Bill has become law.
“The Morrison Government seems willing to protect LGBTQ+ students only after successfully winding back protections for our communities through its Religious Discrimination Bill. It is unconscionable for our communities to be required to endure the erosion of hard-fought protections, in order for long overdue reforms to protect students to proceed”, said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
As well as its commitment regarding students, Labor has also committed to protecting teachers from discrimination, while maintaining the right of religious schools to preference people of their faith in the selection of staff.
“Should Labor form government we urge them to act swiftly to protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in religious schools and extend those same protections to teachers and LGBTQ+ people accessing services from faith-based organisations”, said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“In 2013, Labor removed the religious exemptions from aged care and we’ve seen faith based aged care services across the country embrace the opportunity to promote their inclusive practices. It’s time to ensure that all goods and services are delivered without discrimination, particularly when you consider that a significant proportion of these services are funded with taxpayer dollars.
“The current debate within Anglican schools demonstrates how out of touch some Church leaders are with their faith communities. When legislating to protect people of faith from discrimination, it’s vital that the religious freedom of people within these communities is upheld and that these faith protections are not used as another way to exclude LGBTQ+ people, unmarried couples and single parents.”
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