The Morrison government has been slammed after the latest changes to the Religious Discrimination Bill would protect gay students from expulsion over their sexuality, but fail to protect trans students on the basis of their gender identity.
Today is the first day of federal parliament of the year. Today, the government will restart debate on the contentious Religious Discrimination Bill.
And Prime Minister Scott Morrison has a flagged a new amendment as part of the long-delayed legislation to stop gay and lesbian students being expelled “because of their sexuality”.
Currently, under the federal Sex Discrimination Act, religious schools have an exemption to legally discriminate against LGBTQ students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity if done “in good faith in order to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents” of the religion.
But Coalition minister Simon Birmingham told ABC Radio the government’s new amendment would not protect transgender students.
“The proposal that is put forward is to repeal the exemption as it relates to students being exempted from the Sex Discrimination Act on the basis of their sexual orientation,” Birmingham said.
“It doesn’t go further than that.”
Birmingham told ABC Radio the Australian Law Reform Commission would still review the law relating to gender identity.
That would mean any changes would be delayed for 12 months after the Religious Discrimination Bill passes.
Students ‘deserve to be respected for who they are at school’
Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said this was “unacceptable” and discrimination against any child was wrong.
She said transgender children were at a higher risk of self-harm than almost any other group in the community.
“It’s unacceptable that the government would consider delaying this reform any further and fail to protect such a vulnerable group of young people,” Brown said.
“[They] deserve to be safe when they go to school, and respected for who they are.”
Some Moderate Liberals have threatened to vote against the Religious Discrimination Bill. Their demands included protections for students from discrimination.
But Scott Morrison argued religious school’s ability to expel trans students came from “an existing law”.
He said the Religious Discrimination Bill “does not seek to endorse that arrangement”.
Labor MP Tony Burke told ABC Morrison should honour his commitment for protections for all school students.
“The prime minister said he would end discrimination for all students, not just on the basis of sexuality,” he said.
“He said he would end it for all students and he should be true to his word.”
Greens’ warning to Labor on religious discrimination laws
Greens Senator Janet Rice said the Morrison government’s amendments were “bulls__t” and warned Labor not to support the legislation.
“[The amendments] will reinforce the bill’s underlying bigotry,” she said.
“Trans kids can still be expelled. And religious schools can make same-sex attracted kids lives’ hell, so long as they don’t expel them.
“If Labor rolls over on Religious Discrimination, they’re siding with Scott Morrison against his own backbench and the majority of voters.
“Labor will be the enablers of legislation that will be devastating to women, LGBTQ+ and minority faith people, disabled people and many others.”
The Greens flagged amendments to remove the section of the Sex Discrimination Act allowing religious schools to discriminate.
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