Travel Guides

TravelGuides – LGBTQ+ groups mobilise against Coalition’s religious discrimination bill | Australian politics

TravelGuides – LGBTQ+ groups mobilise against Coalition’s religious discrimination bill | Australian politics

Equality advocates are mobilising against the Coalition’s revived religious discrimination bill and urging changes to ensure minority groups are not harmed by the legislation.

The federal attorney general, Michaelia Cash, met with faith and LGBTQ+ groups last week in a forum attended by the Liberal MPs Dave Sharma and Warren Entsch, who have indicated they oppose a religious freedom act that would provide legal cover for discrimination against vulnerable groups.

Other Liberal MPs and senators have indicated they are prepared to cross the floor over the contentious legislation, which the government plans to introduce to parliament in the final sitting fortnight this year.

The Equality Australia chief executive, Anna Brown, said the current draft bill remained “deeply flawed”, with unprecedented and dangerous provisions that would undermine access to healthcare and inclusive workplaces.

“It was because of these provisions that a broad chorus of voices spoke out against the bill, from industry, unions, people of faith, women, people with a disability and LGBTQ+ people,” Brown told Guardian Australia.

“This coalition is coming back together over coming weeks to highlight the level of community opposition to laws that would take us backward. We urge the government to listen and to abandon proposed laws that would privilege religious institutions and entrench new forms of discrimination.

“Instead, the new attorney general should deliver on the government’s commitment to protect LGBTQ+ students at religious schools, and wind back outdated exemptions that allow religious institutions to treat people unfairly because of who they are or whom they love.”

Equality groups are particularly concerned about the inclusion of what has been dubbed the Folau clause, which would enable claims of indirect discrimination based on a person’s religious belief against an employer or professional body’s ruling of misconduct.

Sign up to receive the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning

The Australian Christian Lobby has claimed credit for the inclusion of the clause, which refers to the controversial sacking of rugby player Israel Folau after he wrote on social media that hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters”.

There is also unease about giving legal protection to someone asserting a statement of belief – even if in breach of state anti-discrimination laws – and conscientious objection provisions that could see people denied health services.

Brown said if Cash introduced the bill to parliament in the forthcoming sitting fortnight, it should be referred to a public inquiry so MPs and senators could hear directly from those impacted.

Quick Guide

How to get the latest news from Guardian Australia


Photograph: Tim Robberts/Stone RF

Thank you for your feedback.

Rev Jo Inkpin, a transgender minister at the Pitt Street Uniting Church, attended the meeting with Cash and said the Folau clause was “particularly problematic” and could give licence to discrimination.

“So if you’re working within an organisation that’s trying to maximise the respect and freedom of everybody, you can’t really have people attacking them, whatever your private views, you can’t have people attacking particular groups, particularly when they’re minority groups who are already under severe strain,” she said.

Inkpin is concerned about the bill’s impact on gay and transgender people of faith, noting the legislation could lead to discrimination within a faith-based institution.

“What I find … a bit difficult is that the state here is being asked to put forward enabling legislation which … gives a green light for some people to carry on what is to my mind is actually forms of spiritual abuse.”

Inkpin said while it was reasonable for religious people to have protection from discrimination – “as any other group” in society – it was not appropriate for religion to be given a higher standing.

She said the Australian Christian Lobby – which has boasted it has been able to have the Folau clause included in the third iteration of the bill – was a “minority” voice within the faith community and appeared to have undue influence on the government’s proposal.

A spokesperson for Cash said the government was still working to introduce the religious discrimination bill into parliament by the end of this year.

“The attorney general is meeting with a range of stakeholders to ensure all input can be considered,” he said.

“The government has conducted two rounds of public consultation on draft legislation, and met face to face with over 90 stakeholders in a series of roundtables.”

TravelGuides – LGBTQ+ groups mobilise against Coalition’s religious discrimination bill | Australian politics