Transgender and gender diverse children and their parents are among a group of advocates who have travelled to Canberra to call on politicians to deliver amendments to anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTIQ students from discrimination at school.
Following the leaking of parts of the Ruddock religious freedom review, it emerged a little-known legal exemption put in place in 2013 permits religious schools to discriminate against students and staff on the basis of their sexuality and gender identity.
Advocates have called for the federal government’s commitment to go further, extending the anti-discrimination protections to LGBTIQ school staff and transgender and gender diverse students.
Greens senator Janet Rice said on Wednesday during the recent Wentworth by-election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised a bill would be passed by the end of this week protecting students at religious schools.
“There is one day of parliament left, so he better hurry. Time is ticking, Prime Minister,” she said.
She said a Greens bill that would extend anti-discrimination protections to both students and staff at religious schools was currently before the Senate.
“If the Prime Minister doesn’t deliver on his promise to pass a government bill this week, the Greens will do the job for him when the Senate next sits,” she said.
Parents of Gender Diverse Children co-founder Karyn Walker was among a group of advocates to speak at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday.
“We know that faith-based schools endeavour to support the individual needs of all their students, and hope that they extend this love, acceptance and compassion to trans and gender diverse students in their care,” she said.
“All students should be respected and included, and transgender students ask for nothing more.
“Parents and transgender students need to feel safe that they can continue their education where it began without threat of exclusion or discrimination.”
She said trans children are “born into all kinds of families that have different values, races, cultures, faiths and socioeconomic status.”
“It is our job as parents to support, love and nurture our children, and to do that without fear of exclusion from schools that align with our faith and values,” she said.
We call on @ScottMorrisonMP to bring on the bill to remove discrimination faced by LGBTI young people at faith based schools just like he promised he would. Senators Rex Patrick @janet_rice @Louise_Pratt @HumanHeadline @storertim @rightsagenda @PGDCsupport pic.twitter.com/kdvSP4cKhx
— Rainbow Families (@RainbowFamVic) October 24, 2018
It was so great to meet these three wonderful trans kids. They're the ones religious schools can expel because of who they are. That’s just not on.@ScottMorrisonMP you promised to end this discrimination this week. Time's ticking ⏰#greens #auspol @rightsagenda @PGDCsupport pic.twitter.com/aEN5VvFFpv
— Janet Rice (@janet_rice) October 24, 2018
Thank you to everyone who stood by us today as we asked @ScottMorrisonMP and the government for our transgender children and their teachers to be treated with respect, dignity and fairness @janet_rice @rightsagenda @HumanHeadline @storertim @Louise_Pratt @RainbowFamVic pic.twitter.com/TPJINY0UYs
— PGDC Australia (@PGDCsupport) October 24, 2018
Last week, forty-seven LGBTIQ groups nationwide signed a joint statement calling for the government’s commitment to be extended to trans and gender diverse students, as well as LGBT staff.
The group of advocates said on Wednesday that parents remain anxious that their children might also face discrimination because their parents are divorced, unmarried or in a same-sex relationship.
Rainbow Families Victoria spokesperson Felicity Marlowe said the efforts to protect gay students from discrimination were to be applauded but encouraged parliament to go further.
“We ask you keep in mind that our children, and in fact no child, should ever be discriminated against because of who they are or what kind of family they come from,” she said.
“Being gay or lesbian or transgender does not mean we give up our faith and religion. For many of us this is not about either/or.
“I know rainbow families who really want their children to receive an education in a religious setting but worry that these laws make that hard or even impossible.
“My message to politicians today is let’s not lose the momentum from the past weeks – act now to make schools welcoming of all LGBTQ children, young people, staff and our rainbow families.”
(Photo courtesy of Human Rights Law Centre)