LGBTIQ advocates have said they will lobby the Senate to block any move by the federal government to weaken existing anti-discrimination protections under the guise of “religious freedom”.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated his support for introducing laws to “protect religious freedom” in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
Morrison said a “proactive” approach to new religious freedom laws were needed to safeguard personal liberty.
“Just because things haven’t been a problem in the past doesn’t mean they won’t be a problem in the future,” he said of the case for legislation to protect religious freedom.
“So I’ll be taking a proactive approach when it comes to ensuring that peoples’ religious freedoms are protected.
“At the end of the day, if you’re not free to believe in your own faith, well, you’re not free.”
But just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome warned the Morrison Government has no mandate to weaken existing discrimination protections by “protecting religious freedom”.
“There is no threat to religious freedom so we fear the real purpose of any new law will be to take existing discrimination protections away from LGBTI Australians,” he said.
“We will lobby the Senate to oppose any new law that waters down existing discrimination protections.
“Last year Australians voted overwhelmingly for equality and any move to weaken LGBTI discrimination protections would run against that.”
The religious freedom review headed by Philip Ruddock was launched last year to review “whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to religious freedom” to placate conservatives following the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in December.
The report was handed to the federal government on May 18 but has yet to be released. News Corp reported at the time that the review recommends strengthening federal anti-discrimination laws and giving religion the same protection federally as sexual orientation, race, age and disability.
Christian Schools Australia told the review that existing religious exemptions should be widened to give religious schools a legal form of “differentiation” with which they can hire and fire staff based on their adherence to religious codes.
But LGBTIQ advocates have raised concerns that the review’s findings will undermine current anti-discrimination laws protecting the LGBTIQ community.
The group says “religious freedom” has become “a way to euphemise and legitimise discrimination against LGBTIQ people” including in the provision of marriage services and the employment of married LGBTIQ people.
Mr Croome said on the weekend polling conducted by Galaxy/YouGov in October last year found that, in the event of a “yes” vote, 78% of Australians wanted LGBTIQ people treated the same under the law as other people.
These results included 98% of “yes” voters and 43% of “no” voters.
A Galaxy/YouGov poll conducted in February last year found 65% opposition to laws allowing LGBTI people to be refused services based on the service-provider’s religious belief.