North Queensland Liberal senator Ian Macdonald has suggested parents should have the right to prevent children from learning about rainbow families, during a Senate committee into a bill addressing discrimination in religious schools.
Macdonald was chairing the committee, which is this week holding hearings around the country into a Labor bill to scrap legal exemptions allowing discrimination against LGBT students.
During a session in Sydney on Thursday, he said, “The example given was someone having two dads and the rainbow family children, and other children might not have felt comfortable about that.
“The alternative also applies for the majority of families who might not want their children to think about children with two dads.
“Whether that’s right or wrong is irrelevant from my point of view, but it does show that other people have rights too.”
At a hearing in Brisbane the previous day, Macdonald made similar remarks when he told Rainbow Families Victoria executive director Felicity Marlowe, “I think you said children would be discouraged in a faith-based school from saying they have two dads.
“Does that make the other children in the school uncomfortable about what would be, I suspect, strange to them — that one of their classmates can have two fathers and not be like them?
“Does it make them feel uncomfortable, and do they then have rights or feelings that then become confused?”
When given the number of same-sex couples with children in Australia recorded on the latest Census, Macdonald said it was “certainly not insignificant, but as a percentage number it would be smallish.”
“My question was simply: what about the others? Would they feel uncomfortable or discriminated against?” he said.
Marlowe responded during the committee hearing that families in Australia “come in all different shapes and sizes.”
“I think it would be folly to suggest that they only exist with a male or female mother and father,” she said.
“We have single-parent families, multigenerational families and set parented families, where children have multiple adults in their lives, and rainbow families are no different from that. It is the diversity of Australian families that we should be celebrating.
“I think that if you spent some time with a prep, [grade] 1 or 2 class, or a grade 5 child, in a faith-based primary school anywhere in Australia, they would be way more open to the concept of family diversity.
“People just need people who love, care and nurture for them, and that’s what makes a family.”
Greens LGBTIQ+ spokesperson Janet Rice, who is also on the committee, slammed Macdonald’s comments and said they showed the importance of the legislation.
“According to Ian Macdonald’s flawless logic, his personal uneasiness about two men sharing a bed means that school students shouldn’t know if their friends have gay dads. Or something,” she told Junkee.
“His comments demonstrate exactly why we need to remove discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people in schools.
“We LGBTIQ+ people exist, it’s time Macdonald gets over it.”
The Senate committee is looking at Labor’s Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018, sponsored by senator Penny Wong.
The bill was introduced 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.
So the Presbyterian Church runs schools in Queensland where discrimination in schools hasn’t been allowed for a decade. Yet the sky is going to fall in and schools will have to close if we end discrimination across the country. 🤔 #EndDiscriminationSenateInquiry #Greens
— Janet Rice (@janet_rice) February 7, 2019