Melbourne rally against religious exemptions this weekend


melbourne religious discrimination rally ali hogg roz ward
Photo: Jordan Hirst

A Melbourne protest rally this weekend will oppose religious legal exemptions and LGBTIQ discrimination in the name of “religious freedom”.

The Morrison government will unveil its controversial religious discrimination legislation within weeks.

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But advocates are concerned about the detail of the bills and their impact on the LGBTIQ community.

Marriage equality campaigner Ali Hogg and Safe Schools co-founder Roz Ward are planning a rally at the State Library of Victoria for this Saturday (August 31).

They said the Ruddock religious freedom review found little evidence of anti-Christian discrimination. While vilification protections are important for minorities, they said, the government’s new laws are a “dog whistle to the religious right of the Liberal party.”

“We had to fight hard to win marriage equality. We’re not about to give away more rights for religious organisations to discriminate against our communities,” Ali said.

“Public demonstrations really matter. We encourage everyone who can to take to the streets with us on August 31.”

They said the Morrison government also has not repealed controversial religious exemptions revealed in the Ruddock review. The laws allow religious schools to exclude children and fire staff because of their gender identity, sexuality and marital status.

“We know most people think that it’s not okay for students to be excluded or teachers to fear for their jobs over their sexuality or gender identity,” Roz Ward said.

“Any effort to curtail the freedom and safety of LGBTI+ Australians must be recognised for what it is and resisted at every turn.”

The Melbourne event comes after recent anti-discrimination rallies in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

Tasmania will also rally against religious discrimination

Equality Tasmania are organising a rally for September 7 outside State Parliament in Hobart.

Spokesperson Rodney Croome said they must defend their state’s strong discrimination laws from any potential federal override under the guise of “religious freedom”.

“The fact that Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act does not allow anti-LGBTI discrimination by faith-based organisations is important for all LGBTI Australians,” Croome said.

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“This is because it sets a high standard other states should aspire to.

“And it shows that the sky doesn’t fall in when religious organisations are held to the same standards as everyone else.”

The rally will hear from a former Catholic school teacher, Olivia Hogarth, and a former Catholic school student, Sam Watson.

Both benefitted from Tasmania’s “gold-standard laws” banning discrimination by faith-based schools, Croome said.

The group has also launched a new petition and webmail page allowing those supporting Tasmania’s laws to voice their concerns to politicians.

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