More than 50 Australian LGBTIQ groups have released a joint statement calling for an “affirming” Religious Discrimination Act.
The statement backs “protections from discrimination for people of all faiths, and for people who don’t hold religious beliefs.”
But new laws must not sanction new forms of discrimination against others, it adds.
“As members of LGBTIQ+ communities, we have seen and experienced firsthand the immense harm discrimination causes,” the statement reads.
“Discrimination has a devastating impact on physical and mental health, and an individual’s sense of acceptance and belonging.
“We strongly believe that no one should be treated as ‘less than’ because of who you are or what you believe.
“[But] we will oppose any new laws which would give religious groups a license to discriminate against others in a way that would sanction mistreatment or wind back the clock on equality.”
Signatories include Equality Australia, the Queensland AIDS Council, Australian Transgender Support Association of Queensland, and just.equal.
Religious groups Uniting Church LGBTIQ Network, Equal Voices and Australian Catholics for Equality have also signed.
Religious discrimination bill ‘can’t take Australia backwards’
Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown wants the government to keep its commitment to a religious discrimination bill that “won’t take Australia backwards on equality.”
“Conservative religious groups, like the Australian Christian Lobby, are trying to use this … as payback for marriage equality,” she said.
“But we cannot let their cynical politics divide us when we are seeing the rise of vilification and hate crimes against others, such as Muslim or Jewish Australians.”
Attorney-General Christian Porter said this week the government was not “intending to displace state laws” protecting LGBT people with the bill.
But Ms Brown said Australian anti-discrimination laws should be “a shield against discrimination, not a sword to attack others.”
She called on the Parliament to ensure new laws can’t be used to harm others or undermine existing anti-discrimination protections.
“Australians consistently show that we value equality. We saw it in the overwhelming majority who votes YES for marriage equality, including people of faith,” she said.
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