LGBTIQ organisations Minus 18 and Equality Australia have delivered a 55,000 signature Change.org petition to federal senators calling for students and teachers to be protected from religious discrimination.
The petition comes ahead of an Senate vote this week on a Labor bill to scrap exemptions allowing religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. Today, an inquiry into the bill will be tabled in the Senate.
“Today we share the voices of over 55,000 students, parents and community members from every state and territory in Australia who call on the Morrison Government to end the religious exemptions to discrimination laws based on sexuality and gender identity,” Minus 18’s Micah Scott said.
“The message is clear: overwhelmingly Australians believe that all students and teachers deserve to be protected from discrimination.”
A group of LGBTIQ young people joined advocates to hand the petition to Senators Penny Wong, Louise Pratt, Janet Rice and Tim Storer in Canberra on Wednesday.
“The legislation that emerges from the building around me has the power to shape the tone of society and, when you’re young and LGBT+, that tone isn’t always friendly,” 18-year-old Oscar Kaspi-Crutchett said.
Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said repealing the exemptions will “allow students and workers to feel safe and welcome at schools across Australia.”
“It’s vital that the parliament acts now and doesn’t delay to deliver on the commitments that were made last year to keep students safe at school,” Ms Brown said.
“This should be straightforward. There are exemptions in our laws that could be removed today if the parliament stood up and did its job.
“We know we have support in the parliament [and] we’re here today to call on our supporters to do the right thing to keep students and teachers safe at school.”
So proud of @minus18youth who today delivered their @Change petition to protect LGBTIQ students and teachers from religious discrimination. Thanks for supporting young queer people @SenatorWong & @RichardDiNatale. #AllSchoolsSameRules @EqualityAu pic.twitter.com/e4fJ6v3Wri
— Nic Holas (@nicheholas) February 13, 2019
“Students shouldn’t be discriminated against at school. It’s vital our Parliament acts now and doesn’t delay on the commitments made last year to keep students safe at school” – our CEO @AnnaEquality addressing the press at Parliament House today. pic.twitter.com/rMxGIJffKp
— EqualityAustralia (@EqualityAu) February 13, 2019
The Labor bill was introduced by Senator Penny Wong after it emerged from the Ruddock religious freedom review last year that current laws allow religious schools to expel students on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity.
The government’s own bill was criticised by LGBTIQ advocates as “deeply flawed” and in December was referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission, which won’t report until after the upcoming federal election.