Australia Mulls New Law To Ban Religious Schools From Discriminating Against LGBT Students, Staff

Australia Mulls New Law To Ban Religious Schools From Discriminating Against LGBT Students, Staff

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus

Almost a year after former prime minister Scott Morrison failed to get his religious discrimination bill passed in parliament, the Anthony Albanese government is pressing ahead with plans to introduce a law that would allow LGBTQI students and staff will protect against discrimination in religious schools in Australia.

Last week, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) released a consultation document asking for a response from the general public on proposed anti-discrimination rules that would make it illegal for religious schools to expel students or fire staff because they LGBTQI is. In November 2022, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus directed the ALRC to come up with recommendations to reform federal anti-discrimination laws.

Currently, religious schools have an exemption from federal anti-discrimination laws that allow them to discriminate against, fire, and expel LGBTQI students and teachers. The amendments to the law proposed by ALRC would remove those exemptions.

Removing exemptions for religious schools

The proposed law reform would make it illegal for religious educational institutions to discriminate against students “on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy”.

It will also “protect teachers and other school staff from discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy”.

The proposed laws would still allow religious schools to “maintain their religious character by allowing them to give preference to prospective staff on religious grounds where the teaching, maintenance or practice of religion is part of their role” and “require that all staff the educational institution’s religious ethos.”

The deadline for submissions is 24 February 2023, and the ALRC will present its final recommendations to the Australian Government on 21 April 2023.

Essential to pass law to protest LGBTQI students, staff

Gay Aussie actor Tim Pocock speaks out against homophobia at Sydney Opus Dei school

LGBTQI advocates welcomed the ALRC consultation document and called on the community to submit their responses.

“We are calling on those who oppose the adverse treatment of LGBTIQA+ people to raise their voices for equality in religious schools before the February 24 deadline,” Just.Equal Australia spokesperson Brian Greig said in a statement said.

“We also call on people submitting a submission to make the point that there should be no indirect discrimination, including loophole discrimination in the name of ‘religious ethos’, and to call for an end to exemptions for faith-based welfare agencies . .”

Greig was referring to the recent ABC Four Corners story about LGBTQI students being discriminated against at two Opus Dei affiliated schools in Sydney.

“(It is) a reminder (of) why it is imperative that the law condemns discrimination in faith-based schools. States like Tasmania and Victoria already prohibit all discrimination and the federal government should too,” Greig said.

Concessions To Conservative Churches re

The organization said it had also written to the Attorney General about the fact that of the 10 organizations consulted in relation to the brief, seven were religious organizations and only one was an LGBTQI group.

“The conservative Anglican Diocese of Sydney was consulted despite not representing the Anglican Church nationally, and the LGBTIQA-friendly Uniting Church was not consulted at all. The LGBTIQA-friendly Independent Education Union was not consulted, nor were any women’s groups, despite the investigation also affecting their rights,” Greig said.

“This bias is reflected in concessions to conservative church leaders such as the ALRC proposal to allow the exclusion of LGBTQA+ students from religious celebrations. We must do everything in our power to stop any such concession to harm,” Greig added.

Have your say here! Submit your feedback on the Australian Law Commission’s proposal to protect LGBTQI students and staff in religious schools before 24 February 2023.

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