Religious Discrimination Bill: Government amendments don’t protect LGBT students from discrimination or fix major flaws

Proposed Government changes to the Sex Discrimination Act as part of the Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill package fall well short of protecting LGBT students from harmful discrimination at school and fail to address major legal flaws.

PIAC re-iterates our call for the Bill to be rejected in its current form.

Trans and gender diverse kids abandoned, LGB kids not protected from discrimination

It is completely unacceptable that the changes fail to offer any protection for gender diverse students.

‘There is no legal or moral justification for abandoning trans and gender diverse students,’ PIAC Policy Manager Alastair Lawrie said.

‘The purpose of anti-discrimination law is to protect the vulnerable – allowing discrimination against trans and gender diverse children to continue is a perversion of that principle.’

‘The Bill also does not deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to protect LGBT children from discrimination by only preventing the expulsion of LGB students. The Government is proposing that discrimination be permitted against lesbian, gay and bisexual students in countless other damaging ways, including exclusion from activities or suspension,’ said Mr Lawrie.

Furthermore, by allowing religious schools to discriminate against students ‘under the guise of religious belief’ throughout their education, not just at enrolment, LGB kids may face discrimination, including expulsion, for not being prepared to affirm views that are inconsistent with their humanity: for example that ‘homosexuality is intrinsically disordered’.

‘The government is offering LGB children a figleaf of protection while religious schools still hold their sword. The impact this has on the mental health of young people is profound and can be devastating,’ said Mr Lawrie.

Amendments don’t address divisive and dangerous exceptions

The Government’s amendments also do not address the serious problems with the Bill highlighted by civil society organisations during the recent parliamentary inquiries.

‘The Government proposes to tweak the statement of belief clause to ensure it is Constitutionally valid, but has done nothing to lessen its harmful impacts on women, LGBT people, people with disability and people of minority faiths,’ PIAC CEO Jonathon Hunyor said.

‘It is also extremely disappointing that the Government’s amendments do not seek to limit the excessive religious exceptions contained in the Bill, that will continue to allow publicly-funded hospitals, aged care, housing and disability service providers run by faith organisations to discriminate against Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic and atheist workers.’

‘These provisions will divide rather than unite our community. They are dangerous and should be removed’, said Mr Hunyor.

Existing protections stripped away

‘The Government amendments also leave untouched the override of State and Territory anti-discrimination protections for teachers and other staff in religious schools,’ Alastair Lawrie said.

‘Passage of the Religious Discrimination Bill will strip away rights from teachers in places like Queensland, and will undermine protections in Victoria before they’ve even begun.’

‘There is nothing in the Government’s amendments which change our overall view, which is that the Religious Discrimination Bill promotes rather than prohibits discrimination and should be rejected’, Alastair Lawrie added.

Media contact: PIAC Media and Communications Manager Gemma Pearce: 0478 739 280.

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