A coalition of Australian LGBTIQ groups have urged the federal government to ensure transgender and gender diverse students aren’t left out of law reform protecting lesbian, gay and bisexual students from discrimination at religious schools.
Following the leaking of parts of the religious freedom review, it emerged a little-known exemption permits religious schools to discriminate against students and staff on the basis of their sexuality and gender identity.
But forty-seven LGBTIQ groups nationwide have called for the government’s commitment to be extended to trans and gender diverse students, as well as LGBT staff.
“We welcome the recent bipartisan commitment to end discrimination against children in schools on the basis of sexuality,” the statement reads.
“While welcome, we also need to protect trans and gender diverse students, and teachers and other school staff, from discrimination.
“We should be aiming for best practice, not lowering the standard.”
The statement says most religious schools “don’t use their exemptions to discriminate, and provide supportive and inclusive environments for their students and staff,” but the religious freedom review’s recommendation to enshrine the discrimination in law was unacceptable.
“We’ve moved away from a time where it’s considered acceptable to treat people unfairly simply because of who we are or who we love,” the groups said.
Felicity Marlowe from Rainbow Families Victoria, one of the groups to sign the statement, said her message to politicians was to “not lose the momentum” for change from the past week.
“Act now to make schools welcome of all LGBTQ children, young people, staff and our rainbow families,” she said.
“We ask you keep in mind that our children, and in fact no child, should ever be discriminated against because of who they are or what kind of family they come from.
“Being gay or lesbian or transgender does not mean we give up our faith and religion. For many of us this is not about either/or.
“I know rainbow families who really want their children to receive an education in a religious setting but worry that these laws make that hard or even impossible.”
Stories of discrimination
The Equality Campaign, Rainbow Families Victoria and Alex Greenwich MP have collected accounts from LGBTIQ Australians who have experienced discrimination or exclusion at religious schools and presented the stories to MPs in Canberra today.
More than 800 people shared their stories of discrimination with the Equality Campaign, and backed the removal of discrimination against LGBTIQ people in schools.
Jo Hirst, author, advocate and mother of a trans child, said “every student should have the right to be safe and accepted in their school community.”
“We know that trans and gender diverse students achieve their best academic and mental health outcomes when they are supported by both their families and their school environment,” Hirst said.
(Photo by Jeffrey Feng/Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras)