Morrison government shelves Religious Discrimination Bill ‘indefinitely’

prime minister scott morrison press conference 2021 religious discrimination bill
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The Morrison Government has put its contentious Religious Discrimination Bill on hold indefinitely, and it won’t become law before the next federal election.

The legislation passed its first vote overnight in the lower house. It passed with Labor’s support after a marathon 11-hour all-night debate.

But the Morrison Government suffered a major defeat after the opposition and crossbench successfully passed amendments.

The changes would scrap an existing part of the Sex Discrimination Act allowing religious schools to discriminate against students on sexuality and gender identity.

To make that happen, Liberal MPs Trent Zimmerman, Bridget Archer, Fiona Martin, Katie Allen and Dave Sharma crossed the floor to vote for them, against the government.

But ABC News reported later on Thursday the Morrison government had “indefinitely” shelved the Religious Discrimination Bill.

After the vote overnight, the Religious Discrimination Bill next goes to the Senate. However on Thursday, the legislation was pulled from today’s agenda.

That means very little time for Senators to debate and vote on the legislation before the election, which is due by May.

And ABC News has reported the Morrison government is “all but guaranteed” not to bring the legislation back for debate before then.

Labor previously said the party would demand changes to the contentious bill in the Senate, where the government doesn’t have a majority.

On Thursday morning, the Australian Christian Lobby reacted with fury at the passage of amendments to protect students.

The ACL called on the Morrison government to “immediately withdraw” the “completely undermined” amended legislation.

On Thursday afternoon, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said she wants to put the new amendments to a Senate inquiry before they become law.

LGBTIQ advocates cheer Religious Discrimination Bill backdown

LGBTIQ group Just.Equal Australia applauded the federal government’s decision to withdraw the “fatally flawed” Religious Discrimination Bill.

“The people who made this happen were the many community advocates who spoke out about the denigration and discrimination they’d face if the Bill passed,” spokesperson Rodney Croome said.

“We also thank those brave members of parliament who stood against their Bill, and in some case against their own party, in the name of fairness and inclusion.”

Croome said while LGBTIQ advocates were “very happy this corrosive debate is over for now,” their campaigning would resume if the legislation returned.

“This Bill may have gone away for now. But the push by a minority of religious leaders to wind-back our hard-fought rights will not,” he said.

“We need national leaders that will defend and protect the LGBTIQ+ community, not allow our rights to be taken away under the guise of ‘religious freedom’.”

Croome said both major parties need to develop and implement clear LGBTIQ+ policy positions.

Earlier, reacting to the overnight lower house votes, Equality Australia said it was “mixed emotions” for the LGBTIQ community.

“The House of Representatives voted for historic changes to the Sex Discrimination Act [to] protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in religious schools,” CEO Anna Brown said.

However Brown took aim at lower house MPs for “voting to wind back existing discrimination protections for our communities and many others” by backing the Religious Discrimination Bill.

“Our laws should protect all of us, equally, regardless of who we are, whom we love or what we believe,” she said.

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