LGBTIQ groups call for submissions on Religious Discrimination Bill

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Just.Equal Australia and PFLAG Australia have called on supporters of LGBTIQ+ equality to have their say on the Religious Discrimination Bill by sending submissions to the two parliamentary inquiries examining it.

Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison introduced Attorney-General Michaelia Cash’s (pictured) third draft of the contentious legislation to parliament.

Morrison has framed the bill as “a shield, not a sword” to protect Australians of faith from discrimination.

However LGBTIQ advocates and legal experts say the bill will “legislate bigotry” and override existing laws to permit discrimination against LGBTIQ people, women, and minority groups.

Over summer, two parliamentary inquiries are examining the Religious Discrimination Bill.

One has a submissions deadline of Monday, December 21. The other has a deadline of January 7, 2022.

The two LGBTIQ groups have created the Equality not Discrimination website to allow supporters to easily email both inquiries.

Just.Equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said it is important politician know there is wide spread opposition to the bill.

“The two current parliamentary inquiries need to know there is widespread opposition to the Religious Discrimination Bill,” he said.

“We urge everyone who supports the values of equality and inclusion to raise their voice against the bill’s violation of those values.”

Scott Morrison’s Religious Discrimination Bill overrides existing laws

The two organisations argue the Religious Discrimination Bill will allow derogatory and demeaning statements in the name of religion against LGBTIQ+ people and others who experience religious stigma including people with disability, women, and members of minority faiths.

They warn it will also override existing protections for LGBTIQ+ people, unmarried partners and others in faith-based organisations.

National PFLAG spokesperson Shelley Argent said those concerned about the bill’s impact on other groups can also send their views to the inquiries through the new website.

“Please send an email to these two inquiries right now because they close very soon and we need Canberra to hear us,” she said.

“We fought hard for the equal rights of our LGBTIQ+ children and we are not going to let anyone take that away under cover of ‘religious freedom’.”

Rodney Croome said the Religious Discrimination Bill overrides existing state laws, including “gold-standard” discrimination protections in Tasmania.

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison must explain why he wants Tasmanians to lose our existing rights under the Bill he has championed,” he said.

“[Labor opposition leader Anthony Albanese] must explain why he hasn’t adopted a strong and explicit stance in defence of the rights of everyday Tasmanians.”

The committees will hold public hearings on the bill on December 21, and January 13 and 14.

Both parliamentary inquiries are due to report back by February 4.

The federal parliament does not sit again until February 8, before the federal election due by May.

Legal experts slam ‘deeply problematic’ religion bill

Constitutional law expert George Williams has written an inquiry submission.

In it, he says the Morrison government’s “deeply problematic” new draft should “not be enacted in its current form”.

He said if passed, the Religious Discrimination Bill will give religious Australians greater freedom of speech than non-religious expressions of conscience.

Prioritising religious speech over other forms of speech was “deeply problematic in a secular nation”, Prof Williams warned.

“It also finds no basis in the international human rights conventions that the bill purports to implement,” he wrote.

“As a matter of principle, it is wrong to use the law to prioritise one form of speech over another.”

Professor Williams described the legislation as “full of shades of grey, unclear terms and doubts as to its scope”.

“Unfortunately, this bill will significantly add to this problem, including because of its problematic interactions with other federal and state anti-discrimination laws,” he wrote.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance also warned slated protections for people expressing their beliefs would be used as a cloak for sexism, racism or homophobia.

“This is unacceptable and means that the (bill) is effectively legislating bigotry,” the group wrote in a submission.

The ALA wrote in the submission the draft bill could be unconstitutional because it curtails other rights.

“The government has not presented a strong, evidence-based rationale for the need for such discrimination legislation in respect of religious belief or activity.”

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