Attorney-General makes ‘religious freedom’ LGBT pledge


attorney general christian porter religious freedom review scott morrison
Photo: Sky News

The government’s religious discrimination laws “aren’t intended” to interfere with state laws protecting LGBT people, Attorney-General Christian Porter says.

Porter told the Guardian his bill “is not intended to displace state law nor will it import specific provisions of international law.”

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The Attorney-General is still working on the bill, and his statement comes after concerns the new laws may override state discrimination protections.

Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome welcomed Christian Porter’s commitment but remain concerned about the detail. The group wants an “iron-clad pledge” from leaders that state laws won’t be undermined.

“Tasmania has the strongest discrimination and hate speech protections for LGBTI people in the nation,” Croome said.

“We’re concerned federal legislation could water down these protections in the name of religious freedom. We still fear the devil will be in the detail.”

“For example, the Government has flagged religious freedom amendments to marriage and charity law.

“[These amendments] could allow religious organisations to discriminate in ways currently not allowed in Tasmania.

“This would impact not only LGBTI people, but also single parents, divorcees, de facto partners, people with disabilities, and anyone who falls foul of traditional religious precepts.”

Conservative MPs want religious freedom laws to go further

Conservative MPs and faith groups have pushed for broader “religious freedom” laws. But LGBTIQ advocates warn new legislation must be a “shield, not a sword”.

However Christian Porter has said the government’s bill will be a “basic” discrimination bill defining religion as a “protected attribute.”

Monash law expert Luke Beck told ABC Radio “religious discrimination” laws would prevent people from being discriminated against by others.

On the other hand, hypothetical “religious freedom” laws would legally protect certain activities, justified by religious belief, he explained.

Laws in Tasmania, Queensland and the ACT, prohibit vilification on the basis of sexuality with no specific exemption for religious speech.

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And uniquely, the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act does not allow religious organisations to discriminate on sexuality, gender identity, relationship status or marital status. This includes faith-linked schools, hospitals and welfare agencies.

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