Liberty Victoria Statement on Religious Discrimination Bill

Liberty Victoria calls on all members of Parliament to reject the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 (Cth) (“the Bill”) in its current form to ensure that LGBTIQ people, and in particular vulnerable LGBTIQ kids, are not subjected to discrimination in education and other vital services.

Need to protect vulnerable children

The Bill as it stands will allow LGBTIQ students to be treated unfavourably by schools because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The reported amendments that the Government has said will be introduced (which are not yet publicly available) do not appear to adequately protect vulnerable people.

If passed, the Bill (with the proposed amendments) would allow LGBTIQ students to be unfavourably treated in schools in two main ways:

  1. The Bill would allow transgender, gender diverse or non-binary students to be expelled on the basis of their gender identity; and
  2. Gay, lesbian and bisexual students would not be protected from forms of discrimination other than expulsion, meaning that they could face unfair and unfavourable treatment because of their sexual orientation.

It is unthinkable that there is a debate about whether LGBTIQ young people should have equal access to vital services like education. It is fundamental that in a progressive and human rights observing country, that all children are able to equally access education and other services without discrimination.

The need to protect against discrimination, and the specific vulnerability of children, have long been protected in human rights law. 

General concerns about the proposed Bill

Liberty Victoria also reiterates our fundamental concerns about the operation of the Bill. Our concerns are discussed in detail in our submission to the Parliamentary Inquiries that considered the Bill.

Liberty Victoria supports legislation to protect people of faith from discrimination or vilification, as indeed Victoria’s laws have long done. To that end, we support laws that provide people of faith with a “shield” against behaviour that might harm them.

This proposed law, however, goes somewhere else; instead of handing people of faith a shield, it would provide some people of faith with the right to wield a sword. It does so by giving faith-based organisations special licence to discriminate against staff, students and people who rely on certain services.

We call on members of Parliament to vote against this regressive, dangerous and damaging proposed law, which has no place in a progressive society.

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